Sunday, 22 December 2013

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas to all readers of this blog

It has been a hard year for many but as we are getting closer to the General Election in 2015 I for one will be working even harder over the next year to do all I can to help us get a Labour Government in 2015

In 2014 I will continue to work hard in Rushmere, help Ipswich Labour to win more seats in the Borough election.

I will also continue to spend time helping veterans and work with Labour Friends of the Forces to get a better deal for our Armed Forces - the Christmas Card is from my former Regiment, The Royal Green Jackets - the fictional TV soldier Sharpe was serving in a Rifle Regiment

I also think 2014 will be the year we have to unite and stand together as a town against the Far Right - in their various guises - BNP, EDL, Britain First and even elements of UKIP

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Three times easier to 'shop local' with a map

Live local, Shop local.

Many residents in Rushmere were disappointed when the planning inspector overturned Ipswich Borough Council and allowed Greene King to turn the Golden Key pub into a supermarket.
One of the reasons people did not want to see a supermarket on the Woodbridge Road site was because of the quality of local shops in the Woodbridge Rd area.

Just after planning permission was granted on appeal, a local resident Swaraj who wanted to help local traders, he came up with the idea of a local map. This was then take on by the North East Area Committee and at one of our meetings a number of young pupils from Copleston High School volunteered to get involved.

The Bally triplets came up with the winning design and that was then taken forward by local Rushmere firm, Ipswich Magazine 24, who produced the final map.
The North East Area Committee have paid for the printing of 5,000 maps and distribution of 3,000 with the remainder being held by local shops.

This was a great example of residents getting together to look after the area they live in, a big thanks to Swaraj, Ipswich 24 and Ellinor, Georgia and Stephanie Bally.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Nastiest Front Bench speech ever?

Today the Labour Party managed to get Westminster to debate the shocking rise of food banks in this country, I have been asking via twitter if our own Tory MP, Ben Gummer was going to attend the debate. Not sure if he did but it seemed at times that only 20 Tories (and very few Lib Dems) were sat in the House - but they did get over 200 to turn up for the vote.

But one of the most telling moments of the debate also highlighted how many Tories just wish to ignore the fact that food banks are needed now more than ever. Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) took to his feet to make a very emotional and passionate speech as he attacked the Tory Minister who had replied for the government but then left the House, not wanting or wishing to listen to the debate - a certain Esther McVey, but he also highlighted the lack of Lib Dem MPs present for the debate.

This is part of the speech, Gerald made:

"It is disgraceful that the junior Minister, having made one of the nastiest Front-Bench speeches I have heard in my 43 years in this House, has now sloped off and not bothered to listen to the views of the House.

Last Sunday I attended a carol service at New Covenant church in my constituency, where a leaflet of activities distributed to the congregation read,

“Food bank to alleviate poverty among the unemployed and low income earners.”

The previous Sunday I attended a carol service at St Chrysostom’s, also in my constituency, at which Canon Ian Gomersall always makes an appeal. In previous years it has been about alleviating poverty abroad—helping a Romanian orphanage, for example. Last Sunday he made an appeal for food for hungry people in the area around the church. He said that the prospect was that there would be soup kitchens—soup kitchens in my constituency! He is not political, but he felt that he had to say that to a crowded congregation.

That is the precise policy of this Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government. I note that the only Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Manchester has not even bothered to turn up to this debate. That will be noted by his constituents."

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Fascist group Britain First, use our Armed Forces to promote their right wing views

Today in Ipswich town centre, I witnessed a Far Right Political Group using the cover of support for our Armed Forces to spread their message of hate, collect information and data on residents who were tricked into signing their petition. But worst of all they were even selling badges, with people probably thinking the money will end up with soldiers or an armed forces charity, but it was obvious to me that the money would just end up in the pockets of this nasty right wing group.

The group involved is the Britain First Party, who I believe are a breakaway from the BNP.

You can see how people are fooled into thinking this is a military backed stall

The stall set up was very professional with an expensive banner promoting a campaign to support our troops, but straight away I was suspicious, a large group of Ipswich residents were queuing to sign their petition, the man behind the desk must have thought I wanted to sign and offered me a sheet and pen, but I wanted to know who was behind the petition, when I asked him, he reached under the table and gave me a glossy leaflet, it did have Britain First on the front of the leaflet but most of the leaflet featured pictures of our soldiers and most disgustingly for me a photo of Rifleman from my own Regiment, carrying the coffin of a fallen soldier.

It was not till you got to the back page did you get the real message that this nasty Right Wing group wanted to get over, a message about fighting back and making sure British families do not get treated like second class citizens.

The real political message they are trying to get across

I then informed the man behind the stall that I was an ex soldier and we did not need the support of his sort, he then got quite aggressive and told me to move on as I was now informing Ipswich shoppers they should not sign the petition.

When I was speaking to him it was then that I saw they were selling badges for £5, but no notice to tell us where the money was going to, it became obvious it would end up in their own pockets.

I find it disgusting that this Right Wing group are using the good name of our Armed Forces to both raise money for themselves and also to get their nasty fascist message across, when I then saw they were using the photograph of the coffin of a dead Rifleman from my Regiment to promote their cause, I then felt anger but also a determination to continue to campaign against the likes of the BNP, EDL and Britain First.

They do not represent, Ipswich, Britain and certainly not our Armed Forces, so if you see them in your town centre – do not sign their petition or even give them the time of the day – they are just fascists who want to destroy everything that this country fought for in the last war.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

My week ahead, 16 - 21 December 2013

Monday – 16 December, 2pm – Sidegate Primary School Finance meeting
4pm – Culture Portfolio meeting
6pm – Labour Group meeting

Thursday 19 December, 6pm – Ipswich Borough Council, Grafton House

Getting close to Christmas but meetings continue. The last two weeks have also given me a chance to meet with some of our new candidates for the elections in May, we certainly seem to have found some excellent candidates and our average age will drop somewhat if all our new candidates win. They are also very enthusiastic, with many joining after seeing the damage to our country caused by a Cameron/ Tory/Lib Dem Government.

Last week also saw a number of reports on education published, Tory run Suffolk did so badly that even our own Tory MP broke ranks and criticised the Tory administration. I for one believe the miss-handling of our children’s education in Suffolk will be a major issue not only in May next year but definitely at the General Election in 2015.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Suffolk Tories fail again to raise education standards in the County

Yesterday saw the publication of at least the third report on education this week and again it did not make good reading for Tory run Suffolk County Council.

The first report this week was by the National Audit Office, concerning the setting up of Free Schools in the UK and in the main the report was mainly negative and this afternoon we have just been informed that the DfE have ordered a Free school to close in April after failing to reach the required standard of teaching.

Though I believe the setting up of ‘Free Schools’ (well not actually free as the Tax payer has had to heavily subsidise their creation) has not helped raise education standards in Suffolk it is the two later reports this week that have shown what a mess Tory run Suffolk is making of education in this county.

What was no surprise to me was the silence of leading Suffolk and Ipswich Tories once the two reports were published, I mentioned this via twiiter and Mr Gummer did then send me a link to show he had commented on the report. The link led to a Star website report that indicated Mr Gummer was critical of teaching but no mention of the failure by Tory run Suffolk to help improve education in the county.
The Ipswich Star and the EADT today both featured the report on Primary School education which highlighted the fact that Suffolk again has been named as one of the worst performing authorities in England. The Star did not include in their report the comments from Mr Gummer but the EADT did. Again they repeated Mr Gummers comment about the need for better teachers but it did also include his criticism of Tory run Suffolk – ‘We need a sense of urgency which the County Council has not yet shown’.

I would like to thank Mr Gummer for once at least putting some of the blame at the feet of the Tory run County but it seems his words have fell on deaf ears, the county according to their leader, Mr Bee and lead on education, Lisa Chambers are just going to continue with their ‘Raising the Bar’ project but Mr Bee warns us that it is going to take time. All good news for parents of pupils who are currently in Primary education in Suffolk then?

So what is the real plan for Education in Suffolk? Even Mr Gummer seems slightly critical of their progress though it is still silence from the other Tory MP’s, Tory Cabinet members and Ipswich Tory Cllrs. I have written to Mr Gummer about what I believed to be the bullying approach the DfE have taken in forcing schools to become academies. One local Tory, wondered why I was criticising academies when they produce better results, not sure that is actually proven in Primary Schools yet but I do agree with him, academies are probably the best way forward but only because there is just a choice between becoming an academy or being left under the control of a Tory council who has no interest in education and just wishes to get rid of their responsibility as soon as possible.

Mr Gummer has passed on my concerns to Lord Nash and I am still awaiting his views on the process that seems to have become normal in that schools are not only being forced down the academy path but also sworn to secrecy whilst doing so.

One of our Labour County Councillor colleagues has written to the County Council after finding out via a resident that one of the Primary Schools in her Division is being forced into becoming an academy, she wanted to know why she had not been informed.

The reply from the County consisted of a number of interesting points, but one in particular I felt gave away more than it should of: The comment was “There is also an expectation that over time all school will become academies. This process is beyond the control of the LA” Now I for one can’t remember that being in either the Tory manifesto at the last General Election or in the Tory County Manifesto last year, can you?

So as many of us thought, this is not about parental choice but it is being forced on us for ideological reasons.
One Tory County Cabinet member did use his blog this week but not to talk about education but how he was proud that they had not raised council tax and how he wished he could lower it – true Council tax has not risen over the last few years but at the same time funding to the School Improvement Team has been slashed and we now hear from the County that their plan is just to get rid of education completely from their remit.

‘Raising the Bar’ has just become ‘let’s just stand at the bar and wait for all schools to leave the authority’
Not for the first time, Tories in Suffolk have let down our children.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Planning for Defence

On Tuesday, I was a Westminster meeting the Shadow Defence Secretary Vernon Coaker and his team. The meeting was held in the cosy but still impressive surrounds of the Shadow Cabinet room.

The meeting was arranged so that Vernon could get the views of members of ‘Labour Friends of the Forces’.

As well as myself, there were three other members present, two of who are Parliamentary candidates for next General election the other member is a wife of a serving soldier.

We had a detailed and frank conversation about what we saw as concerns for both current members of the Armed Forces and veterans but not forgetting their families.

Before the last election the Tories made much of their promise to repair the Military Covenant, not that many soldiers I know of actually knew there was such thing as the covenant! But those members of the armed forces who did vote for the Tories based on their promises must have been very disappointed when all they seemed to have delivered on defence is a smaller armed forces and thousands of redundancy notices.

So I find it very encouraging that this meeting was held (a continuation of the good work, Jim Murphy had started) and the promise of further meetings as we approach 2015 and more importantly to me that these meetings will continue after we hope Labour have regained power.

NHS, Education, energy policy – many reasons why this country needs a Labour Government, but now you can add defence to that list. Dr Liam Fox was a disaster at the MOD but from those I spoke to at Westminster on Tuesday, many believe Hammond is not much of an improvement and that view is also held by a number of Tory MP’s in particular those who have close links to the military.

Just before the meeting, I bumped into one of my former officers, he was on a ‘smoke break’ from the Main MOD building, from the short conversation I had with him, I could see the cuts to defence had hit soldiers morale and he for one saw that the army would now struggle to be able to attract some of our finest young men and women as it could no longer offer the career prospects it has in the past.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

My week ahead, 9 - 15 December 2013

Monday – 9 December, 6pm – Labour Group meeting

Tuesday – 10 December, 1pm – Labour Friends of the Forces, meeting at the Shadow Cabinet room, Houses of Parliament

Wednesday 11 December, 5pm – Briefing by the Cabinet Office on electoral registration reforms

Thursday 12 December, 6pm – Area Committee Chairs meeting

Friday 13 December, 7pm – Labour Christmas Party, Roundwood Bowls Club

Saturday 14 December, 10am – Labour campaigning, South West Ipswich

There has been plenty written on the blogosphere and in the local paper about the cancellation of the Full Council meeting in Ipswich this week. Both Ipswich Spy and the local paper were critical of the cancellation, with ‘Spy’ giving it as yet another example of the real deficit in democracy in Ipswich and Suffolk.

But within a day the criticism turned on the weak opposition in Ipswich, the administration were right to cancel the meeting as there was no urgent business, as you can see from above there is still plenty for councillors to do and though the council meeting is cancelled we still have an important meeting the same day for all councillors about electoral registration. That for me is the real concern about democracy, that changes to electoral registration that are proposed to help reduce electoral fraud may also lead to even more residents not being able to vote,making them feel even further away from the democratic system in this country.

Whilst on the Suffolk County Council, the Labour opposition are well organised, highly motivated as so are holding the Tory Council to account in Ipswich the Tories (and their former Lib Dem partners) are just an embarrassment at times, group discipline is certainly not something they know about and there seems to be as many factions as there are Tory councillors. The Lib Dems just seem to spend all their time attempting to erase from history that they used to help run the council and agreed to building on the Northern Fringe. This week we had a Lib Dem complaining that they no longer have a group room. Forgetting to mention that she was on the executive when they came up with the plan to get rid of group rooms!
We would welcome not only a strong opposition but councillors who would like to get involved in working groups, task and finish groups, but the Tories seem to think being in opposition just gives them an excuse to turn up for Full council and that is about it. This week a Housing Working Group was marked again by the absence of Tory members.

Where we would welcome strong opposition, the Suffolk Tories fear it and more decision will be taken by the executive as they fear that their own County Councillors may fail to turn up to vote in the meeting. A recent Tory Cabinet meeting saw almost the whole Labour Group in attendance- striking more fear into Mr Bee.

But there are examples of councils being scared of democracy beyond Suffolk, this week in Kent the Tory Council published a report on the effects that welfare changes are having on Kent residents. The Tory leader, Cllr Carter had signed the report but obviously had not read it till it was on line. The report stated that welfare changes were leading to more homelessness, more crime and more people using foodbanks.

No wonder the Tories quickly ordered the report to be removed; unfortunately a local Kent Paper made a copy before they took it down. Maybe Kent County Council should be with Tory run Suffolk. Read details on the report here.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Nelson Mandela 1918 - 2013

Mandela - Greatest Post 1945 World Leader

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

Nelson Mandela

Thursday, 5 December 2013

'All in this together' More holidays for the PM or more foodbanks for everyone else?

David Cameron finds Mr Osborne has produced a budget that has made him laugh! Not sure he would be smiling if he was queuing up at a Foodbank rather than queuing at an airport for yet another holiday!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

My week ahead, 2 - 7 December 2013

Monday – 2 December, 4pm – Culture and Leisure Portfolio meeting
5pm – IBC and LGA Peer review

Wednesday – 4 December, 10am – Ipswich Borough Council Planning and Development meeting

Saturday 7 December, 10am – Labour campaigning, South East Ipswich

This week we had a visit from a Labour big wig, Harriet Harman – a meeting with grassroots members, Harriet was here to speak about changes to the Labour Party but also she wanted to know what members in Suffolk were concerned about and no surprise to me that education was the number one concern for us in Suffolk.

There were a number of passionate speeches about the way our children are being let down by a Tory run County Council combined with the bullying tactics of Michael Gove and the DfE.

Then on Friday, the bully himself turned up to open the new Ipswich Academy, a school that would have been built far earlier if Osborne had not put a halt to Labour plans on school building.

But unlike Harriet, Gove did not have time to talk to Tory members, pity as you would have hoped Ipswich Tories would have pointed out how education seems to be such a low priority to their Tory colleagues running Suffolk.

Gove did find time to speak to local radio and TV, but talking to the public was certainly not on the agenda as the visit was kept as secret as possible, rumour has it that they were not even keen on inviting the local councillors to the ‘grand opening’ . Secrecy and lack of transparency seem to be the way Gove likes the run education in this country – so much for parental choice.

But Tory policy does seem to be written on the bag of a fag packet (you can write more on the back of the packet now, thanks to yet another Cameron U-turn this week)

On Monday, David Cameron changed his position on payday lending, having spent three years resisting calls to cap the cost of credit, and even whipping his MPs to vote against it in Parliament.

Then he changed his mind on introducing standardised cigarette packaging - even though he announced just this summer that he was ditching the policy, shortly after appointing the tobacco lobbyist Lynton Crosby as his election adviser.

And then at the end of the week we have seen total confusion on energy, with the Tories denying that they had begged the energy companies to freeze prices up until the election. Then the energy companies saying they had been asked/begged to reduce prices- well at least till after the election! David Cameron has shown he can't and won't act on energy bills, because he won't stand up to the big energy companies. There is only one strong and credible plan which is Labour's plan to legislate for an energy price freeze until 2017.