Tuesday, January 30, 2007

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Stern John, and THAT goal.

Reminder of Coventry goal against Sunderland.

Roy Keane believes that Stern John will make an excellent target man for Sunderland after his signing earlier today. It's certainly a front man role that none of our current bunch of strikers is comfortable with, so perhaps (even at 30 years of age) the Trinidad and Tobago international might make a useful addition to the squad. With so many other players, particularly defenders, returning to full fitness, the team should have sufficient depth to get through the rest of the season and be able to support a strong challenge for an automatic promotion spot.

Here's a reminder of THAT goal John scored for Coventry City against us!


South Marine Park, work gets underway.

Victorian restoration starts today

The planned restoration of South Shields South Marine Park to it's former Victorian grandeur got underway today as the diggers moved in to start preparing the foundations for the two new children's play areas. Rather like Gateshead's Saltwell Park there will be separate play areas for toddlers and larger children each equipped with a wider range of equipment to encourage adventure, mobility, and fitness. Cllr. Jim Sewell said:

"It will have traditional equipment alongside brilliant new play features, such as the Galaxy Electra - a spinning, twisting, climbing frame which sounds such fun that I'm tempted to give it a go myself!"

Heck, I'm not sure what a Galaxy Electra is, but I guess it must be an impressive size if it can cope with Jim clambering around it!


South Tyneside Council


The Decorator

Writing in the Guardian Mr Reid likened his Home Office reforms to renovating a house, saying that it is only when you take the wallpaper off "that you discover more problems".

Dr. John Reid


BBC News

Blogging note;

if you are intending to use this graphic, a small link back would be much appreciated, thank you.


Stern John joins Black Cats

Coventry Striker signed by Keane

Sunderland AFC have confirmed that Coventry hitman Stern John has signed for the club after a medical this morning. The Trinidad and Tobago international was out of contract at the end of the season and the clubs have agreed an undisclosed fee for the man who has scored six goals this season. The 6ft striker has signed a two year deal and should provide a bit more in the ariel department.

The puzzling thing about this deal, as far as Curly can see is, he isn't Irish!


Sunderland AFC


Questions for Miliband

Which one is dumbed down, the newspaper or the politician?

South Shields MP and Environment Secretary was interviewed for The Independent using a selection of readers questions submitted in advance. Some of them make your hair curl, and this is supposed to be a 'serious' newspaper. Here's a selection of the questions:

  • Are you proud to have served under the "pretty straight guy"?
  • Do you feel that you have missed out by being one of the few senior figures in the Labour Party that the police have not questioned over the sale of peerages?
  • Do you ever wake in the night feeling sick about what is happening in Iraq? Are you ashamed about supporting the war?
  • What did Gordon Brown say to you privately after slapping down your leaked memo on green taxes?
  • How can the Government meet even its most conservative targets for reducing carbon emissions while expanding Britain's airports at such a massive rate?
  • Why not tax ordinary lightbulbs and non-rechargable batteries? and why does Ireland have a tax on carrier bags and the UK can't be bothered?
  • You recommend not flushing the toilet as one way of helping the environment, but shouldn't we be manipulating the structure of all toilets so as to use less water?
  • What was your nickname at Haverstock school?
  • Are you ever mistaken for Brains from Thunderbirds? you look uncannily like him.
  • Are you cleverer than Ed Balls?

You can see David Miliband's answers - here.

"Brains" indeed! How do you fancy a flutter on Miliband as our next Chancellor?


Cameron not making breakthrough

Latest poll suggest Tories need "killer instinct"

Despite remaining ahead in the latest YouGov poll for the Daily Telegraph, the Conservatives are failing to capitalise on Labour's gathering troubles and are not achieving the 40% mark considered necessary for winning the next election. Dissatisfied voters seem to be drifting towards a variety of the smaller parties including UKIP and the BNP (worrying.)

Cameron and his shadow cabinet need to come out and punch their weight and give the perception that they can do serious damage to Labour if they are to get the attention of middle England. With the Home Office in total disarray and moving towards the early release of hundreds of guilty prisoners, and losing track of hundreds of paedophiles, the armed forces stretched to breaking point while we fight Bushes campaigns, the NHS facing financial meltdown, government officers and even the Prime Minister being questioned by the police, the conditions are ripe for the Tories to make a killing - if only they were capable!

Time is running out for Cameron's cohorts to start announcing policy initiatives and to begin appearing to look like an alternative government - 'things can only get better' by the Opposition commencing to take the bull by the horns.


Daily Telegraph YouGov report
Daily Telegraph comment


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Police find Blair note in Downing Street

No. 10 denies existence of document!

The Sunday Telegraph reports today that detectives attached to Inspector Yates cash -for - peerages enquiry had unearthed a note in Downing Street penned and initialled by the Prime Minister, officials have strenuously denied it's existence.

Full story - here

Prime Minister's letter


Professor claims Labour losing the North

Elcock illustrate's Labour's lost ground.

Professor Howard Elcock of Northumbria University is reported in today's Sunday Sun setting out how the Labour Party has hemorrhaged local council seats in the North of England since Tony Blair's election in 1997. In the last ten years the party has lost a third of it's seats in the region and is now reduced to just 740 councillors from the 1058 they had at the outset of Blair's regime.
Elcock a renowned transport expert gives the Iraq War and the cash-for-honours fiasco as the latest reasons for the wholesale loss of electoral support for the party, which has traditionally relied on the votes of Northerners who often voted exactly the same way as their fathers did (more often a case of moral bullying than anything else.)

Whilst the Conservative and the Lib-Dem parties have picked up former Labour seats in almost equal numbers, it is still difficult to predict whether or not David Cameron is making a sufficient breakthrough in Labour heartlands such as this to enable the rebuilding of a radical Conservative base. Professor Elcock believes that people will simply vote for the party that promises to make them better off, I'm not so sure.

David Cameron is not in a position (yet) to promise tax cuts from an incoming Conservative government and Professor Elcock predicts a strengthening of support for Labour when Gordon Brown is installed as a more 'tradtional' leader. There is one large problem for both Brown and Cameron as we face the next election - the economy. The Chancellor's handling has been reasonably good so far, but he has a multitude of problems facing him right now and they will magnify as we approach the election. Inflation is now growing past his targets, interests rates are higher than for some time and will continue to increase, government borrowing and the national debt continue to rise leaving either a Brown or a Cameron government with little room for manoeuvre.

If David Cameron can find some imaginative ways to sort out the economic mess then perhaps the Premiership will certainly be his to win, if Brown cannot find answers to the borrow and spend conundrum then he most certainly will enjoy a very short term as Prime Minister!


Sunday Sun.


Take them to court!

Put Labour in the dock says The Electoral Commission.

Police investigating the cash-for-honours affair are to be advised to take Labour to court for breaches of electoral law, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. The official elections watchdog, which is advising Scotland Yard investigators, is preparing to say that Labour has "a case to answer" and should face charges. The case against Labour under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA) is now being prepared by the police. They are also gathering evidence for possible conspiracy charges.

Full story - here

It's all starting to feel and sound just like the end of John Major's government did, don't you think?


Blogging problems

Post problems

This has been a very frustrating weekend with downtime and various other problems on the Blogger server, they are continually attempting to move my blogs on to the 'new' Blogger, always without success. I guess that my customised template is providing problems for Blogger and this does not bode well for the future - when they will force me to move and probably force me to accept a bog standard template again. That will mean having to wait a few more months before being able to rewrite the format and design something that suits. I've had such a bad weekend of it, that I've set up a new blog on Wordpress as an insurance (just in case), I haven't posted anything to it yet, but if Blogger persists in giving trouble I will migrate the whole of these two blogs to Wordpress, so keep your eyes and ears peeled in case of a new URL to add to your favourites.

Health Update

Last Monday I had an appointment with my GP just to check how the ticker is doing after the heart attack on Boxing Day, everything seems to be going according to plan, although he does suggest a little slowing down of the exercise regime. However, whilst I was there he offered me a free flu injection for the winter so I availed myself of the facility. I wish I had not bothered!
I have felt quite ill with all of the effects of the live influenza virus that I received on Monday, I'm just starting to pull myself round now, but I guess it's all beneficial in the longer term.

Musical interlude.

Last week I introduced you to Joe Bonamassa, as a little entertainment for the weekend, today I have something for the aficionados of 1970's rock idols. This video from 1976 shows the veteran singer/songwriter Neil Young busking in the streets of Glasgow, and singing the Old Laughing Lady with a banjo , great fun to watch and fascinating to ask who didn't know who he was, and who did?


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Housing for Circatex site

Great news for Frederick Street, South Shields

Curly is delighted to learn that Cllr. Eddie McAtominey is talking about redeveloping the Cirkatex site at the rear of Frederick Street for housing. As I pointed out in this post of April 2006, any attempts to revitalize Frederick Street as a shopping centre would succeed or fail depending on the outcome of the redundant Circatex site. In that post I said:

"The simple answer is Frederick Street lost it's closest companion, the (very) local community, and it has yet to be replaced. No shopping centre can prosper without customers, and streets like this one need them on the doorstep! The customers need shops and businesses that meet their needs, butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, grocers, frozen foods, confectioners etc., alongside small scale national chains like Co-op Convenience stores. Which brings me nicely back to the Local Development Framework.............

Now that Circatex is about to close we ought to ask if it is worth everyones efforts to find future tenants for the factory? Or should we be more ambitious, demolish it, and attempt to rebuild Rekendyke's community and good fortunes."

Now is a good time to consider building houses there and also to consider infill housing along both sides of the Western Approach Road, - the site of the backs of Frederick Street and Marshal Wallis Road, is not the most inviting as we enter the town. Small infill developments similar in size and scale to the new apartments in Laygate Lane (opposite the school) and The Glebe, Westoe Road, South Shields, would be ideally suited for this location. I had marked in yellow on a map of the area to show those sites which I thought were most suitable for housing developments, you can see this map again by clicking on the thumbnail below.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us


Reid less likely to win a leadership battle

No longer 'fit for purpose' at the bookies

John Reid's relatively short tenure as Home Secretary has involved him in a series of high profile controversies, which William Hill say have virtually killed betting support for him to become the next Leader of the Labour Party.

They have now lengthened his odds from 5/1 to 8/1, and shortened those of favourite Gordon Brown from 1/9 to 1/12. The only other serious betting contender is 12/1 third favourite David Miliband.

Dr. John Reid was being quietly and consistently backed as a serious candidate for the Leadership - then he became Home Secretary and the support has dwindled away to virtually nothing.

We have not taken a three figure bet for him in several weeks. He no longer seems to be fit for purpose as a leader-in-waiting, according to political punters' said Hill's spokesman Graham Sharpe.

With Reid out of the running, Gordon Brown looks even more of a certainty than before and he is now the shortest odds he has ever been to succeed Tony Blair.

Meanwhile, Hills are offering odds of 6/4 that Reid will still be Home Secretary on January 1, 2008 and 1/ 2 that he will not.

John Reid's star is most definitely on the wane after a disastrous week at the Home Office, his advice to judges to jail only those considered to be extremely dangerous was taken up by immediately by one or two on the bench who appeared to want to score a political point at the expense of the beleaguered Home Secretary. Today's news that his department has failed to restrict the international movements of many known drug dealers can only add to his misery. He is either 'not fit for purpose' or he is the victim of a campaign mounted by Gordon Brown to secure his position as Blair's successor.



BBC News


Friday, January 26, 2007

The Blair Years

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

May as well help make this go viral, seems everyone else is!


Shields man to cycle to Paris

"Toddy" to mount famous Paris bike in ride for cash! (Oops that's wrong, I'll start again)

One of my regular customers at the Corner Shop begs me to include the following and urges other customers to give whatever support they can.

This is a fund raiser on behalf of the Rainbow Trust to support families of children with terminal and life threatening illnesses. Mr. Graham Todd of South Shields is planning to ride with 'Quinny' from London to Paris at the end of June - what a way to spend your holiday - they are hoping to cover the 200 miles in three days.

"We need to raise 2000 pounds by the 27th April and so any donations would be gratefully accepted to help us on our way.

We chose the Rainbow Trust because of the work it does, supporting families who have a child with terminal or life threatening illness. It made us think, every once in a while life seems to be against us. However it's hard to imagine how you would cope when faced with this kind of illness", said Mr. Todd (pictured right)Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

In this world of high tech miracle charity raising, you can help him by donating online - here.

What is even better is the fact that the Rainbow Trust can claim back a proportion of tax for every pound that you donate. I wouldn't be surprised if the two of them spend the three days singing their heads off (I've heard them!!) as a way to raise even more money.

Best of luck Toddy, I hope I can get some help for you!


Miliband's brother in "offy" protest

I don't want an off-licence in my street!

Ed Miliband MP, the brother of Environment Secretary and South Shields MP David Miliband was tonight embroiled in a row with Camden Council in London over the planned opening of an "offy" on the corner of his street. Brother David lives just a few streets away .
Mr Miliband bought his 650,000 pound pad in Chalcot Road in October but less than six months later he has found himself in the kind of row that has been played out hundreds of times at the Town Hall since government licensing reforms were introduced two years ago.
Applicant Cengiz Un wants to open Chalcot Wine in a former hair salon, offering alcohol everyday from 8am to 11pm.
Now Mr. Miliband says his "quiet enjoyment of his home" is under threat and that he shouldn't be made to live above a wine shop.
As a director of a resident management company overseeing the flats, his name appears on a letter of objection filed at the Town Hall.

Oh, the terrible life one must have as a Member of Parliament, and having to live with the ordinary foibles of ordinary people too!


Camden News.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Labour councillors claim credit!

Sometimes the "brass nerve" is just too obvious

The Shields Gazette (which has removed the link to Curly's Corner Shop on it's new website) gives us an opportunity to throw the accusation of collusion and acquiescence with the local Labour barons this evening. Following my disclosure yesterday that South Tyneside Primary Care Trust had withdrawn it's planning application for a change of use of the caretaker's house at Temple Memorial Park, South Shields we are presented with the happy smiling faces of two Labour councillors claiming that their intervention had won the day!

Cllrs. Gibson and Brady are even made to look like environmentalists under the headline "Green campaigners celebrate as Temple Park GP plan is withdrawn", and since when were these two gentlemen accurately described as "green campaigners"?

The truth of the matter is all rather different. Independent Candidate Stephen Pattison had discovered one of three statutory notices displayed on a lamp post at one of the edges of Temple Park, while out walking by pure chance, so he had the good sense to raise the matter publicly after contacting other members of the Friends of Temple Park pressure group, someone else had the good sense to make additional copies of the notice available for passers by in a bid to raise awareness. The matter became public after Mr. Pattison had contacted the Shields Gazette. Perhaps he, and not the "chuckle brothers" from Whiteleas should have headlined tonight's story, instead of being dumped down near the foot of the article (but he won't have as much influence as two Labour councillors, and besides, local editors don't want to fall out with the controlling party do they.)

What irks even more is the tacit acknowledgment that the "chuckle brothers" are totally out of touch with events in their ward, indeed on their doorstep. Cllr. Gibson is quoted as saying:

"We were very disappointed that the first we heard of this was when we read about it in the Gazette."

Perhaps, being a councillor, with a computer and broadband access provided by us the council tax payers, he ought to have known about the application by checking his own council's website, and their Planning Explorer - here! Better still, if he had spent some time walking around his ward, and the edge of Temple Memorial Park, then he too would have seen one of the statutory notices on a lampost. To demonstrate so admirably that he is unaware of the current state of play in his ward would be enough to cause deselection in some parts of the country, he certainly deserves to be taken to task by someone in the party for being so blissfully ignorant.

However, the balance of probability is, that this is NuLabour news management (spin) at work again, with the compliance of an ever helpful editor, the "chuckle brothers" are dressed up and brought to the park for a photo-opportunity, after complaining that Mr. Pattison had his moment of glory a couple of days earlier, "we need to be the headline act", you can imagine them saying. The Leadership of South Tyneside's Labour Party would have been pulling the strings of course, they certainly did not want a political issue brewing up at Temple Park with the local elections so close - did they?


"I think its very funny that these two councillors must feel desperate to get in the local Gazette about the outreach surgery on Temple Park , that they stoop this low and try and take credit for something they said they knew nothing about. The credit for this application being rejected should go to all the people of South Shields who originally put their names to the petition to stop the "super school" going onto Temple Memorial Park because
that's what let everyone know what these councillors wanted to do to THE LAND GIFTED TO THE PEOPLE OF SOUTH SHIELDS.
I`ve heard of jumping on the band wagon but this is just down right desperate.."

Steve Pattison


Adoption backdown

No opt-out clause in Equality Bill

It seems as if the Prime Minister's authority has suffered another setback as he appears to have lost the argument in Cabinet over the suggested opt-out clauses for the Sexual Orientation Regulations in the Equality Bill. The Telegraph is reporting today that the majority view is that the Bill should go through unamended and that the Roman Catholic Adoption Society, and others, will be made to comply and break long standing items of faith. It is understood that Blair is holding out for a period of 'adjustment' for religious organisations who handle adoption cases.

The situation is far more fraught for the Communities Secretary, Ruth Kelly, who may now face the agonising decision to choose between her faith and her political career. Stephen Pound, one of Labour's most prominent Roman Catholic MP's accedes that she is in an invidious position.

"We seem to be living in a world where people who have strongly held views are somehow derided for that. In Ruth's case there is demonstrably a conflict. Is it right for us to expect someone to abandon everything they believe in because of the prevailing majority view? Does she abandon her ambition or her faith? She is in a desperately difficult situation. She is a Roman Catholic who happens to be a politician, not a politician who happens to be a Roman Catholic."

I'm not wishing to appear to be churlish, but Blair's government has hardly been marked by the chivalrous actions of ministers resigning, or 'doing the right and honorable thing ' when their conscience was pricked - we will watch this space.


The Daily Telegraph


Closing grammar schools "reinforced class divisions"

Education Minister admits grammar schools should never have closed.

Lord Adonis becomes yet another Labour Minister to hail the success of David Cameron and the revitalised Conservative Party. In an interview in The Spectator he admits that Labour could and should have been bolder in eduction and that if he could redo the education policies of the 60's and 70's he'd do it rather differently. Lord Adonis denounced the "comprehensive school revolution, which destroyed many excellent schools without improving the rest".

He said he deplored the end of grammar schools, a move "carried out in the name of equality but which served to reinforce class divisions"

The comments are a stunning repudiation of the 'one size fits all' education policies which Labour clung to for decades and many MPs still support.

His words effectively admit that Labour has failed an entire generation of schoolchildren.

Critics last night said Lord Adonis should go further and call a halt to the destruction of grammar schools.

Labour has recently ordered the closure of selective schools in Northern Ireland.

This is a subject which very recently has been discussed on the message board, and I'm afraid to admit that one or two 'old Labour' stalwarts still believe that pupils who were educated in a grammar school were from the middle or upper classes. In a town like South Shields of course, nothing could be further from the truth, we even heard arguments that certain schools provided more passes in the 11 plus examinations because their cathchment areas contained more wealthy families, again pure fantasy. I was educated at Barnes Road Junior School in South Shields, down by the riverside amongst the packed terraced houses and shipyards. I joined 10 other boys and 13 girls that year who passed the exams and qualified to go to a selective grammar school. Of those who didn't quite make it, they were determined to have a second chance, hence the 13 plus examination provided a route for a further intake. It was this sense of achievement that drove pupils to excel, call it a naked ambition if you must, but those whose education took place in the secondary modern schools certainly didn't feel left out (if they had ambition) and many of them went on to achieve the necessary A levels to qualify for a university place.

A place at a local grammar school for some was a big goal, a target, a stepping stone along life's path of progress. I somehow cannot imagine what pupils of my generation would have thought of the 'one size fits all' comprehensive school. We are not all the same, we do not all have the same abilities, or the same rate of learning and achievement. To separate those who achieve faster does a great service to those who cannot acquire knowledge at the same pace and allows them to flourish in the companionship of others of like ability. There are no class divisions here (in the 'old Labour' sense) , there are no social stigmas attached, just an acknowledgment that pupils learn better when grouped together with others of the same talents and abilities.

The assessment of Lord Adonis is essentially right, the selection system was a good one, grammar schools produced good results, and allowed the secondary modern schools to produce results which would probably be difficult to achieve in today's comprehensive schools.

Alas, I think it would be a very brave Education Secretary who decided it was time to turn the clocks back!


The Daily Mail.


Brown and the Smith Institute

Charitable or not?

For some time now the popular blogger Guido Fawkes has been posting articles related to The Smith Institute and it's very close links to the Chancellor Gordon Brown, and he has been slowly revealing salacious pieces of information about the charity's personnel, meetings, and finances on a drip feed basis. Yesterday he announced that the Charity Commission had twisted his arm up his back to release information to them as they launch a second investigation into the The Smith Institute to determine whether or not it's charitable status is bona fide.

The Smith Institute is a "think tank" set up after the death of former Labour Leader John Smith in 1994 and has held the vast majority of it's meetings in No. 11 Downing Street, and as last night's Newsnight on BBC revealed, No. 11 has hosted more meetings of the Smith Institute than all of the other charitable events hosted by the Chancellor combined together.

It seems that Guido's intuition for a story is leading to bigger things. Here is last night's Newsnight article, and as is my normal advice with these YouTube clips, it's best to allow the whole clip to download before clicking on "play again".


P.M. fails to lead House in Iraq debate!

Harangued by Hague too.

Perhaps Cherie had told Tony that it was a basic human right not to be forced to debate wars that one had a hand in starting?


The Times Online


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Temple Park Application withdrawn

Primary Care Trust have change of heart.

Of course if it hadn't been for the efforts of Steve Pattison this whole scheme may never have been brought to our attention. Over the past few years Steve has campaigned tirelessly for the conservation of the covenants applying to the use of Temple Memorial Park, South Shields and he was incensed when he uncovered the plans of the Primary Healthcare Trust to use an existing building on the green land as a surgery.

Cllr. Jane Branley (Independent) has informed me today that the planning application has been withdrawn, I will have further comments just as soon as they are emailed to me.

There, we can all breathe a sigh of relief!

Update: 22:43

Steve Pattison is resolved that Labour Councillors have influenced the PCT's decision to withdraw the application, and is convinced that they are attempting to prevent him from speaking on behalf of local residents surrounding Temple Memorial Park. Speaking over the counter to the Corner Shop he said:

"I would like to start by thanking everyone for their support about the PCT wanting an outreach surgery in the old caretakers house on Temple Memorial Park. I've had loads of calls from people saying that I know where they are if I need them to help, with a pettition or a protest if needed.
As I'm standing as an Independent Candidate this year, I think that the decision to withdraw the application has been influenced by Labour Councillors, because they do not want another political hot potato just before the next local election.They will stop at nothing to prevent me speaking up for the people of the area."


Leaked council reports and "news"

If it's not local, don't bloody bother!

Curly is now getting heartily sick of Mr. Andre Walker, Communications Officer for Fulham and Hammersmith Council, for taking advantage of my offer to "make use of" council reports, documents, news stories, leaks and rumours etc. I'm sure that the good Geordie people of South Tyneside couldn't give a flying fig about Fulham and Hammersmith's opposition to the proposed West London Tram system, and neither are we interested in your pictures of erudite councillors holding up banners on your busy streets. Unless you can tell us how to reduce our council tax bills by the same amount as you did, then don't bother getting in touch.

We're interested in what's happening behind the scenes in South Shields Town Hall here you dummy!


Blairs' gay dilemna

Is P.M.s wife behind compromise?

The Blair government is facing further trouble in it's battle to get the Sexual Orientation Regulations through Parliament after the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster wrote letters to members of the Cabinet expressing their view that their adoption agencies could not accept a law requiring them to hand over vulnerable children to gay couples.

Some in the Labour Party saw Cardinal Cormack Murphy O'Connor's intervention, and his implied threat that Catholic adoption agencies might close, as nothing less than blackmail and intimidation, and are calling on the Prime Minister and his Cabinet not to back down in the face of this intimidation from Christian religious leaders, and herein lies Blair's dilemna. Blair's wife Cherie is a practising Roman Catholic and for some time the Prime Minister too, has been attending Roman Catholic Churches and mass, one of his Ministers, Ruth Kelly is a member of the Catholic organisation Opus Dei, and they are all trying to ride two horses at the same time. Do they continue to support the gay rights movement and it's drive for equality, or do they try and square their conscience? Many commentators suggest that the Prime Minister is being influenced by his wife in his deliberations over these regulations, additionaly many of the Labour Party's constituency are Roman Catholic.

The whole issue illustrates the bedevilment of the Labour Party and it's subjugation to minority pressure and lobby groups, and the growing muddle that it finds itself in, one must question whether there is any merit at all in legislating on this matter. Do the general public really want a law that provides the means for gay couples to adopt children? In addition, the government's "respect agenda" wishes to provide some of us with "parenting classes" to help produce the model citizens of the future - with parents of the same sex?

One could argue too, having read that our churches are populated with many homosexual priests, that they should "cast the moat out of their own eye" before preaching to the rest of us!

Archbishop Cranmer muddies the waters even further - here


The Times Online


SNP boyed by "cash for peerages" news

It seems that Blair's man in Scotland has brought further bad news.

Another of Tony Blair's top aides, John McTernan (political relations Director) has been dragged into the "cash for honours" enquiry when he too was interviewed under caution by Inspector Yates team, for a second time, last week. Somehow No. 10 managed to keep this out of the news, as it happened before the arrest of Ruth Turner. It has also been revealed that the First minister of Scotland, Jack McConnell was interviewed as a witness in the probe last month.

McTernan had recently been sent to Scotland to buoy up Labour's campaign in the forthcoming elections for the Scottish Parliament. These latest events are more than likely going to be used to the fullest extent by the SNP, who seem primed to grab many seats from Labour North of the border!

Some time ago I mused whether local leaders of the Labour Party might like to comment on their leader's predicament, I was met with a stoned silence, are they still so reticent?


Daily Star


Further crisis at Home Office

Prisons full - problem solved!

The Home Office has known for many months that Britain's prisons are at bursting point, we have teetered on the brink of putting up the "no vacancies" signs for a long time (click picture to enlarge). So how has that organ of state found a solution to the burgeoning prison population, built a couple of more prison? Converted some redundant mental hospitals? Created floating prisons on board ships? Utilised unused army barracks?

No, instead, Home Secretary John Reid, the Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer, and the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith have decide to put their names to a letter circulating our judicial system appealing for judges and magistrates NOT to send anyone else to prison other than the most serious crime suspects. I guess the protection of the public is not worth considering these days, I guess the phrase "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" means very little to the three aforementioned gentlemen.

Shadow Home Secretary David Davies had this to say:

"Yet again we see the public being put at risk by the failure of ministers. How much longer must the public pay the price of Gordon Brown's miserliness and John Reid's incompetence?"


The Mail


Have the Tories sold their soul?

Steady trickle of members joining UKIP

In a mildy vitriolic article Simon Heffer in the Daily Telegraph extols David Cameron to liberate himself and break free from the chains of Francis Maude, Oliver Letwin, and Steve Hilton. Heffer reckons that "Big Dave" is their prisoner, hamstrung by their efforts to keep him firmly tied to the left of the party engaging the likes of Polly Toynbee and turning his nose up at little government, smaller taxes, liberty, and an English Parliament. Pegged down to the middle of the road of British politics, Cameron and his non-representative focus groups are to blame for a steady trickle of party members joining the United Kingdom Independence Party led by MEP Nigel Farage (pictured) claims Heffer.

The more interesting reading to be gleaned from his piece is found amongst the comments section, Heffer has certainly managed to stir up a hornets nest with his analysis, with some party members prepared to sell out on their ideals and beliefs in order to get their hands on the reins of power, whilst others see the party having sold out on it's ideals and beliefs and are now prepared to go to a new home, UKIP.

There is the possibility of course (which the Labour Party tries to exploit) that once elected we will see no change at all in the Tory party. I wonder how our local association feels about this issue?


Daily Telegraph.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The heart beats again............

...............and no, I don't mean mine this time.

Something deep within the heart of South Shields Conservative Association has stirred, a few small clenches and a release of pressure and the organ started to beat in a weakish, though regular, fashion. It is now well on the road to recovery I am pleased to say- South Shields Conservatives' blog is up and running again.

You don't suppose it had anything to do with the cajoling, bullying, and brow beating from me do you?

It might be a nice idea if someone in South Shields Labour Party could take up the challenge of regular blog writing, not in the Miliband fashion though, it would give local news editors some variety at last, to say the least. Give me a shout whe it's done lads!


South Shields Conservatives.


Asboslut Vodka

Beau Bo D'or offers up this superb image.

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It just seems to go so well with this story!

Hat Tip - Beau Bo D'or


Minimum 22 years for Phipps' killer

Life sentence for Nichols

This news probably arrived too late for publication in this evening's Gazette. Scott Trevor Nichols the 21 year old killer who stabbed Lee Phipps to death on the ash path near Cleadon Hills, South Shields on 2nd. March last year has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum tarrif of 22 years.

Nichols was an out of control criminal with 37 previous convictions including offences such as assault, robbery, burglary and other offences involving the carrying of knives. He was reasonably well known in South Shields as a very dangerous and unpredictable young man, my estimation (after having dealt with him at the Corner Shop) is that remorse will not cross his mind. I only hope that the prison service can either reform him, or find other means to keep him incarcerated beyond his minimum tarrif. The thought of him being returned to society, unreformed, at the age of 43, is very worrying indeed.

The sentencing hearing before the Recorder of Newcastle Mr. Justice David Hodson also found that there was no evidence of racism towards the Phipps family during the course of the investigation by Northumbria Police.


Newcastle Evening Chronicle
BBC News


Starving our pensioners

Disgraceful treatment in hospitals and care homes.

Ivan Lewis, the health minister, conceded that some elderly people were given a single scoop of mashed potato or served meals with plastic cutlery "best suited to picnics".His remarks, made to a local Birmingham newspaper, went on to admit that a single scoop of mashed potato "masquerades as lunch every day".

It is appalling and a national disgrace, yet it continues to happen, our older folk almost starving simply because a nurse or a member of staff is not available to feed them. Please remember that a lot of elderly people in hospital or in care have debilitating conditions which can severely limit their mobility and dexterity. After the health minister has made his shocking admission, I wonder what improvements will arise from it?

Read the full story - here


Left wing "think tank" urges huge tax rises

You can tell there's not much longer left for Tony..........

When left wing think tanks like Compass have the brass nerve to come out and shout for swingeing huge tax rises, when the old class war cliches get dragged out of the garbage can, when property becomes the target of the envious.

Today they get ready to prime Gordon Brown and whoever his new Treasury team will be with an agenda of pure take, tax, and apropriation that would hit most hard working families with an additional 6,000 pounds per year tax bill. Compass are even recommending a wealth tax for those with assets of over 200,000 pounds (see my previous post about house prices) and individuals with over 100,000 pounds, they would also raise the ceiling for national insurance contributions thus raking in even more tax from middle income earners, and they are calling for the portion that the state takes from national wealth to rise to around 50%.

Wasn't it this type of lunacy that created the conditions for Margaret Thatcher's long reign? If this is the route that the left wants to take after the demise of Tony Blair, then let's have more of it say I.


Daily Express


Taxed after death

More families dragged into Inheritance Tax

In a town like South Shields with it's roots firmly entwined around the old terraced houses of the industrial revolution, it's shipyards and coal mines, with a long socialist tradition, one wouldn't expect the subject of conversation to turn to Inheritance Tax. However since the late 1960's there has been a surge in owner occupancies and the percentage of homeowners in the town continues to grow, assisted by the recent growth in property prices.

If you were asked to suggest which streets contained property worth 2m. pounds, you would possibly come up with suggestions like North Avenue, Central Avenue, Cleadon Towers, or Westoe Village, South Shields. It might surprise you to know that the house pictured is in Cleaside Avenue, just off Sunderland Road, it is little more than a bungalow with a few added extras yet is up for sale for a cool 2.5 million pounds! Why do I tell you this? Because it illustrates in a nice simple easy to understand way that there are thousands of properties in this town liable for a big payment to the taxman when their owners pass the property on to the family after their death. Death Duties and Inheritance Tax kick in at a trigger point of only 285,000 pounds, almost 41% of homeowners are now liable for these additional taxes because of Gordon Brown's failures to raise the threshold in line with house prices! Yet Scottish Widows, the investment firm, reckons only 34% were liable 12 months ago.

The Chancellor, unfortunately, is unlikely to make changes before he becomes Prime Minister and even afterwards he is not going to encourage a new Chancellor to raise the thresholds. Why? Because Gordon Brown has built up massive debts for U.K. Ltd and he needs a strong tax revenue to help service them - that's why!


The Daily Mail


South Tyneside Spins again!

Dressing up the news.

In it's latest press release today the Borough Council of South Tyneside makes it look as though 4m. pounds are heading our way. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth, the Government Office North East using a complex system of 151 key performance indicators to examine the performance towards the Local Area Agreement and the Local Strategic Partnership has determined that the Council can have a guaranteed additional one million pounds of grant aid.(You can be sure this money is already earmarked and will not be able to be taken into consideration as far as next year's budget is concerned.)

The rest is dependent upon achieving all targets at the project outcome, and as we have seen on the revenue budget, good progress in the first half is not necessarily repeated in the second half. Yet the headline to the press release suggests that a 4m. pounds cheque has already been written.

Cllr. Paul Waggott, Labour's Leader on the Council said:

" This a very encouraging report on our overall performance and gives us great incentive to continue with our strong partnership working with all sectors of the community. It shows beyond doubt that we are getting it right and we can be very pleased with our progress to date, without being too complacent about what still has to be achieved."

You see, the language he has been given expresses th true situation, the headline does not. Further on in the press release, however, Councillor Waggott highlights falling crime, reduction in levels of anti-social behaviour, improved GCSE results, increased recycling rates, falling levels of unemployment, more people quitting smoking and reduction in levels of obesity, as confirmation of the success of the Council's partnership priorities.

Improved GCSE results? Surely not - for the last four years we have consistently lagged behind the national average, and shown no signs of catching up, we only see improvements when key subjects like English and Maths, and Modern Languages are removed from the statistics.
Falling crime and reductions in anti-social behaviour? I suppose that explains why South Tyneside is on the government "hit-list" of the top 40 anti-social behaviour areas issued only yesterday!


South Tyneside Council


Monday, January 22, 2007

Countess of Wessex - update

Further engagements announced.

Just remember - you read it here first!

The Royal household has announced further engagements for Sophie, Countess of Wessex for her visit to South Shields and Sunderland on 30th. January. Whilst I had details of some of the places she was to visit when I first posted the story last week, it would have been foolish of me to post them before the Royal household had finished the business of running security checks of the premises involved.

The additional engagements announced today include a visit to the West Harton Churches Action Station in Boldon Lane, South Shields, and Sunderland AFC fans will be able to see her at The Stadium of Light for the home match against Crystal Palace, she will also be attending a reception at the stadium in the afternoon in her role as Patron of the SAFC Foundation.

Seems like two good reasons to get your tickets!


Royal Diary


Who is David Lammy?

Byker Wall 'listed'

David Lammy?

Apparently he's a Culture Minister in Tony Blair's government, and he has just decided that the monstrosity that I can see from the West Park in South Shields on a clear day (known locally as the Byker Wall) is to have "Listed status" following advice from English Heritage!

Heaven forbid, I take it that Mr. Lammy has never resided in a pigeon loft hitherto. If the Byker Wall is to be rewarded with the special protection of listed status, then I guess there is every reason to believe that the ugly lump of concrete and cedar known as The Quadrus Centre in Boldon might be protected too in years to come.




"Shared space" traffic measures

Tories to propose "naked streets" idea.

It's an interesting concept "shared space" and shared responsibility in the urban environment. Give car users, cyclists, and pedestrians equal responsibility to look after themselves and all other road users in our towns. It sort of works like this, you take away the road signs, and the traffic lights, and the road markings, and even (if you're brave enough) the kerbs, thus merging the street space into one broad unit and forcing road users to be much more wary of each other's movements.

The idea is being imported from Holland and the town of Drachten, where the removal of traffic lights at one major junction has resulted in accidents falling from thirty-six in the four years before the scheme was introduced to two in the next two years. The average time for each vehicle to cross the junction fell from 50 seconds to 30 seconds, despite a rise in the volume of traffic.

So if there is a mild anxiety in this street space, we will all be that little more careful and take a little more time, that's the theory. Perhaps people are that little more caring towards one another in Holland, I'm not so sure about the U.K. where we have at least 40 anti-social hotspots dotted around the country. Who would take a chance wandering up Westoe Road if there was no pavement and no kerbs?

Not me - it's just a little too adventurous for the moment.


Times Online.


Defence spending lower than 1930's

Warships threatened.

Our spending on defence in terms of it's proportion of the gross national product, is now so low that states in the eastern Mediterranean now spend more than us. Cutbacks in spending on the Royal Navy have reduced our surface fleet to little more than a coastal defence force incapable of ever repeating the feats of the Falklands campaign, we are so bereft of equipment that we recently hired aircraft from Monarch Airlines to transport troops home from the Gulf!

Despite the cupboard being bare, despite the lack of armour, despite the lack of logistical support, with little or no body armour, with our squaddies dealing in used boots with the Americans, despite the Royal Air Force being reduced from 16 to 11 offensive squadrons, despite the Royal Navy losing eight destroyers and six frigates, Tony Blair still insists on sending our forces to fight wars which are not ours to fight!

During the course of Blair's premiership defence spending has been steadily reduced while our forces have been sent out on operational duties such as Operation Desert Fox aimed at destroying Saddam Hussein's capability to produce weapons of mass destruction (1998), Kosovo (1999 ongoing), Sierra Leone (2000 ongoing), Afghanistan (2001 ongoing) and Operation Telic in Iraq (2003 ongoing).

Des Browne, the Defence Secretary will be challenged in the House of Commons today on whether the government is actually committed to delivering the two new aircraft carriers promised to the Navy, one suspects that he is going to need more than the metaphorical tin hat to preserve his little grey cells.

All the while Tony Blair struts the domestic and the world stage looking for the chance to mark out his legacy, looking to create that 'defining moment' of his political career, a grand finale. Unfortunately this moment might arrive for him at a time not of his own choosing, and in a small interview room of a London police station.


Daily Telegraph.


Great! - We are now officially "Chav Central"

South Tyneside named as one of Britain's "Respect Zones"

So we are now officially one of Ms. Casey's 40 'respect zones' that will receive 6m. pounds of tax payer's cash to hand out more Acceptable behaviour contracts and ASBO's and to set up more parenting classes. I suppose any little bits of help would be welcomed, but 6m. pounds could have provided a few more policemen to tackle some real crimes and catch the culprits and remove them from circulation!

I know that I complained that last year we were slow to take up the initiative in South Tyneside, and I guess that that reticence has resulted in us being put in this list of top 40 'hotspots' by Louise Casey and her 'Respect Agenda'. The Home Office said the 40 respect areas were not the worst in England and Wales for anti-social behaviour but had been chosen from a longer list of those with significant challenges. (If that doesn't sound like the top 40 Chav Cities, I don't know what does, joining us in the list of shame are Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Sunderland.)

Needless to say South Tyneside Council will put the best possible 'spin' on the situation, Cllr. Joanne Bell, the Lead member for Safer and Stronger Communities said:

"This is good news for the Borough and the Council. We want to enhance our current work by deepening our approach to tackling the underlying causes of anti-social behaviour. This means intervening early where problems occur and broadening our efforts to address other areas of poor behaviour."

Make of that what you will, it remains to be seen what effect a few additional evictions will have (these people have to be rehoused somewhere), it remains to be seen how many ASBO's will be breached, it remains to be seen how many better parents are created. I will reserve judgement to see how effectively the money is spent.

Nationally the Conservative Shadow Police Minister Nick Herbert said:

"The government has cut 4,000 promised police community support officers from the forces covering these so-called 'respect areas'. Communities don't want gimmicks like 'respect handbooks' - they want police officers on their streets to take real action against anti-social behaviour. Today's announcement conspicuously omits any reference to Asbos - hardly surprising when over half are breached and teenagers now treat them as a badge of honour."

The news today can make all mention of "Respect" look pretty silly when a top judge, Lord Justice Richards is arrested for allegedly indecently exposing himself to a female passenger on a train - just who wrote today's script?


BBC News
South Tyneside Council
The Times Online


Council Taxes to rise 3.5%

Cuts in services for elderly.

It looks as though the average rise in rates for Council tax this year will be 3.5% with many councils cutting back on services such as home care for the elderly. Of 127 councils surveyed only a few were said to be planning a reduction in council tax, amongst those were Hammersmith and Fulham in inner London which has announced a 3% reduction in the charge to it's residents, financed by a drive towards efficiency.

At present South Tyneside council has not announced it's plans for next year's rise, but you can be fairly certain that an increase is on the cards after tight financial control in the first half of last years failed to last the course and expected savings in the council's expenditure were not achieved. The 10 million pound saving in the first half was achieved without any pain or hurt, and with no reduction in front line customer facing services.

It does make you wonder what could be achieved if their minds were really put to it, but let's not expect them to make it any easier for those of us who have to pay!!


BBC News


Blair's fear!

Top quality blogging!

"His eyes snapped open. The sheets were soaked in his fear, the air still thick with slowly dissipating ghosts.

'Help me, Cherie, help me,' he whispered, unable to find his voice. 'I am God's lonely man.'

Cherie didn't stir. She snored contentedly. If the dreams of avarice can be described as content."

Read the full post in Chicken Yoghurt, it's worth five minutes of your time, honestly!


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Does my bummer wife look big in this?

Leave my perks alone cries Cherie!

If Cruella de Blair wishes to flounce around in the designer froth virtually given to her during her husband's tenure in office, one might have thought she would follow the trends of the designer and model sets by getting into shape, or producing a fitness DVD to add to her growing wealth.

The Mail on Sunday today reports on the dreadful frostiness between Cruella and two Cabinet Secretaries who had the misfortune to have to meet her in the course of their (very civil) duties. Apparently she wears creations valued at 10,000 pounds , more than most working people would pay for a used car! Cherie would be getting these creations at discounts of up to 50%, made a little easier by virtue of her position.

A former colleague of Cabinet Secretary Lord (Andrew) Turnbull said:

"Margaret Thatcher was punctilious in understanding the distinction between what had to be paid for from her own pocket and what could be paid from taxpayers' money. Andrew had to stop her paying for things herself when she didn't need to. It is the opposite with the Blairs. All Ministers have to realise that there are three pots of public money they can draw on: as a Minister, as a Party member and as an MP. The fourth pot is their own. Each has to be kept separate. In terms of ethics, this is crucial. With the Blairs the lines are dangerously blurred."

The Conservatives have already accused the Blairs of encouraging a national sense of personal greed pervading from the top to the bottom of society - make your own minds up.


The Mail on Sunday


Who is running the BBC News?

The "Big Brother" issue just does not feature today!

Just what is happening at the BBC? The news that the whole nation is talking about today just doesn't get a mention from the organisation which wants to grab more money from license fees. Whilst just about every quality newspaper in the U.K. is covering the story of Ruth Turner's arrest and Labour's attempts to 'have a go' at the police, the BBC studiously ignores the story. Have they become an official mouth piece for Blair's sleazy regime?

Andrew Raunsley in The Observer writes:

"Once he was Teflon Tony, the Prime Minister to whom nothing ever stuck. He is now Toxic Tony, the Prime Minister whom the voters regard as presiding at the apex of a sleazy regime. Whatever happens next, the public have already slapped a pair of metaphorical handcuffs on his wrists. Poll after poll indicates that voters think that peerages are traded for cash and that Tony Blair has dishonoured his promise to clean up public life"

Whilst the story is also featured in The Times, and given greater depth here, as well as here, here, and here. The whole scenario is of the British press reporting on the single most important issue to face a Prime Minister and his government that we have ever know. The man who brought us the "big brother" state with one fifth of the world's cctv cameras is now very much under the spotlight, in a "Nixonesque" fashion, as police strongly suspect a big cover up. It is time we started to prepare for a Big Brother style eviction, but without the expensive vote to go with it!

Yet the BBC wants nothing to do with the issue.

If the corporation wishes to retain it's previously respected independence then it ought to pay less heed to Dr. John Reid and his spinning stunts at the Home Office, and turn away from it's current position of "Big Brother's Claptrap"

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Hat Tip - Beau Bo D'or


Yates has documentary evidence

It's all in the Little Red Book!

Is this the same Little Red Book that Inspector Yates was recently photographed with on his way to work last week?


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Joe Bonamassa

A 'big' discovery!

One of the advantages of being at home recovering and recuperating from a heart attack is that people visit you, sometimes people who you haven't seen for a number of years, sometimes your family and best friends, and sometimes just neighbours and passing acquaintances.

I had such a visit last week from a very old friend of mine, we go back a long time, his mother was a bridesmaid at my mother and father's wedding, and 'Saus' and I have known each other since the age of four! He brought with him, not grapes, or oranges, or books and magazines, but a carrier bag full of CDs, and knowing the vast majority of my musical tastes they were mainly blues and rock music.

"Do what you like with them" said 'Saus' "play them, tape, them, rip them copy them, or just enjoy them. Why don't you start with these six" he exclaimed!

"Hmmm............ Joe Bonamossa" I mused, "Who is he, I've never heard of him."
"Never heard of him? He's the new kid on the block, better than Clapton or Hendrix were at such an early stage in their careers" he said. "I'll be back to collect them next week".

So I set about listening to this new kid rock blue genius, I should not have been so flippant and offhand, this is brilliant virtuoso guitar playing of the highest quality imaginable, he can play any type of blues, blues rock, country blues, accoustic delta blues etc. Mind blowing! He played at the Customs House, South Shields in October last year and by all accounts was 'electric'.

If you are a fan of blues and rock music can I recommend that you have a look through these links and get to know Joe Bonamassa, view some of the video clips and watch the fingers of his left hand, I promise you will not be disappointed.


Joe Bonamassa Wikipedia entry.
Official site
Listen to tracks or download .wmv clips.


Everything that's wrong about our immigration laws.

Boris in defence of Mark Coleman

"It seems so unfair that we turn the full force of the law on someone who is totally British by descent, who complies with the law, who turns up at the police station every two weeks as required to do, and who refrains from working or claiming any benefits. For all his obedience, we reward him by sending him back to a dictatorship with which he has severed all links. At the same time, there are hundreds of thousands of others who thumb their noses at the law and abscond into society, and we are not able to know even their names or their number. The whole thing is an outrage, and if any Home Office minister knows any better, perhaps he or she could inform us."

You may or may not like Boris Johnson the somewhat outspoken and colourful MP for Henley, but can I urge you to read this item in his blog which sets out everything which is wrong about our immigration policies in this country. Boris is defending a man (Mark Coleman) who is threatened with deportation to the dictatorial regime of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe simply because his grandparents, who were British citizens, were born in India rather than on British soil.

Here we see a man whose grandfather served the Crown in the last World War, whose other grandfather was imprisoned by the Japanese as a POW and helped build the bridge over the River Kwai, whose great grandfather was a surgeon major in the British Army, and how do we treat him? Send him back to the thugs of Mugabe's regime, whilst at the same time we have no idea of the numbers of illegal immigrants sneaking into this island, and we allow foreign terrorist suspects to sneak out of the country unhindered.

If you have any sense or values of what is right then please read the story in Boris Johnson's blog and consider asking YOUR MP to back Boris in his fight for justice for Mark Coleman.


Boris Johnson MP


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