Sunday, August 28, 2005

The drinks are on Tessa

Interesting article in the Indy and an apparent admission that Govt had not handled the issue of 24 hour drinking very well.
Years ago, having spent some of my formative years living in Europe, I was convinced that a major realxation of the drinking laws would inevitably be a good thing.
That was before the massive increase in levels of alcohol consumption and the development of the binge drinking culture. Town centres on a Sat night can resemble a casualty zone and the problem has taken on frightening proportions.

But it is not just city centres that will be affected. Locally, even some country pubs have applied for late licenses and music licences - upsetting all of those who had previously happily co-existed with the pub. There may not be a problem with binge drinking but one thing that is for certain is that the quality of life of many people is going to change for ever

Bird flu treatment

According to the Times politicians are to be first in line to receive bird flu pills. Not clear whether this is to be restricted to Cabinet Ministers or distributed more widely.
Can't say that I agree with this at all and would far rather given to people with a greater need or in poorer general health

Friday, August 26, 2005

Bra Wars

For once retail has hit the headlines and everyone appears to be exercised by the ban on cheap clothing from China. Couldn't help feeling that there was an element of locking the stable door after the horse had bolted (do we still have a thriving mass market textile industry in UK? - I think not!) and went upstairs to check labels on recent clothing purchases.
Initial intention was to check anything from good old Marks and Sparks but suddenly realised I hadn't bought anything from them in years - they have really lost their way.

This is a summary of whatI discovered - all are purchases since beg of year (most in last 6 months) but this is not an exhaustive list

Monsoon - 2 items from China 1 from Turkey
Trouser suit - Episode - China
Gap jumper - Hong Kong
Ethnic top from East - India
Exercise trousers -nike - China
Trousers - UAR

and much to my shock and surprise - that was it really. I had bought a lot more clothing but none of it was labelled with origin (will have to check law on this) - So here are some of the guilty companies whose clothing may have had the country of origin (butif it did it was hidden so well that I could not find it)
CXD (specialise in cashmere/mix tops)
Country Casuals
Alex and Co
Gerry weber
Oh and various items of underwear that I won't mention by brand -

So Iam none the wiser whether I am going to be affected by this but I doknow that one of my aunts used to sew underpants for Marks ans Spencer. They laid her off years ago so I am not quite sure why it has taken quite so long to start worrying about this.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Education education education

Well, that is the mantra - and I write this on the eve of the GCSE results. A week ago we had the A level results and the media response was absolutely and boringly predictable.
1. Lots of pictures of succesful students (predominately female and wearing skimpy tops)
2. Best ever results
3. This must mean that exams are getting easier
4. Predictable outcry from the many students who have worked their socks off.
5. Wheel out a teacher who has been teaching for donkeys years and try to get him/her to 'fess up'
6. If teacher is too nice (usually are) wheel out academic who is keen to say that he (sadly it is usually a he if years of experience are required) has to lower his teaching each yar to cope with the decreasing base knowledge of incoming students
7. Wheel out any opposition politicians who have something new to say

What is nearly always ignored is the fact that behind all the successes there are a large number of students who are hugely disappointed as they have not quite achieved their hoped for grades. Add into the picture the number of educational institutions who are faced with having to try to distinguish between a large number of candidates who look equally good on paper andit seems clear to me that we have to be able to do better than this. Universities and employers need a system that enables them to more easily distinguish between students and students actually need a system that does not so frequently cause heartache and anguish.

We need a radical review of the A level system but above all we need to realise that disappointing results are not the end of the world and that students can still do well in life even if they do not get a place on the course of their choice.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Holiday reading

Can't remember being asked to contribute to this survey which highlights favoured reading of MPs and Peers.

There is always a dilemma in answering these things. Should I try and hint at my intellectual side or highlight the common touch? Hence the lists of preferred reading range from the politically predictable to something everyone will have heard of (ie Harry Potter).

Whatever happened to reading for pleasure? Are they all being honest?

For the record my holiday reading has hardly been touched but I try to alternate between something I feel I ought to read and something I just want to read for the hell of it. The following are cluttering up my bedside:

Author Author - David Lodge
David Blunkett - Stephen Pollard
Fruit of the Lemon - Andrea Levy
Downsize this- Michael Moore
A tale of love and Darkness - Amos Oz
Birds without wings - Louis de Bernieres
Grumpy old women

David Hinchliffe once recounted a worrying tale to me on a Select Committee Trip. He had discovered that Simon Burns was talking to publishers about writing a book (Simon used to keep us entertained on visits by providing an endless stream of political quiz questions).
The exchange (I am told ) went something like this
"Blimey," says David, "You'd better keep that quiet or people will think you're an intellectual"

Quick as a flash came the retort from Simon,
"In my party - the fact I actually read books marks me out as an intellectual!"

MPs no more

There are some people I miss - but I wrote to all of my ex colleagues shortly after the election. Nicest - and most balanced - response was from David Rendel who had lost in Newbury. He was always a most considerate and gentle soul and he always turned up to help at local (and not so local) council by elections. When I wrote to him I expressed the hope that this help had been reciprocated during the election. In typical David fashion he didn't respond to this but commented positively on having his life back and his plans for the future.

Not everyone takes it so well. It was a disappointment to me therefore to come across Jane Griffiths blog. Make your own mind up but I was taken aback by the underlying bitterness of the whole thing. She was treated abominably but does that excuse her present outbursts? Come on Jane - move on and get a life. It's just not worth the bitterness.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

VJ celebrations 2

Listened to the coverage from the cenotaph. Nice touch that Lord Romsey was able to lay a wreath but I thought Tony might have thought it worth coming back for - just how long has he been on holiday for?
Having said that I heard no mention of opposition politicians of any party - where they invited? If not this seems to be something of a scandal - If the reality was that all of the party leaders were on holiday then surely substitutes could have been found to represent the political parties.

Mo Mowlam

Was really sorry to hear the news of her death - many people have expressed the same from all parts of the political spectrum.
It is one of my regrets that I did not know her in her earlier political career. What I did observe was a very warm and funny woman with a strong streak of humanity. Call it the common touch, call her a people's politician - call it what you will but the bottom line is that she was one of those rare people who are able to engage with others on a number of other levels.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Buerks and berks

Michael Buerk appears to be having a bit of a crisis and resenting the so-called dominance of women. See this link for an interesting (to me!) comment on his little strop in this week's press.

Monday, August 15, 2005

VJ celebrations

These were sadly lacking in Hampshire as the County had decided to amalgamate VE and VJ celebrations - as per Government wisdom. It was a different matter in Southampton and yesterday there was a special service (held outside the Civic Centre) in honour of VJ day and to award the Freedom of the City to Burma Star Association and the Normandy Veterans.

The service was graced by the presence of Mary Fagin (Lord Lieutenant) who was very exercised by the fact that there were a large number of veterans standing on parade in the noonday sun. In the end she need hardly have worried as the veterans stood up to the conditions well but the younger cadets and soldiers were falling like flies. Hopefully none of them have suffered any ill effects but I was pleased that Southampton had chosen to celebrate the occasion.

That wasn't the end of things as today there was a special lunch - held on board Queen Mary 2 to celebrate the givings of the Freedom of the City. In case you are wondering what the link is I should just point out that the Freedom of the City was also given to the Captain and Crew of the QM2. High spot of the day was when two thirds of the way through lunch we all went on deck to watch a spitfire fly past. Quite an emotional moment and one that will live in the memory.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Lords Reform

Those readers who access a number of blog sites may have noticed a bit of a theme today as a number of us have committed to making some comment on the reform of the House of Lords.

I can't understand why this is so controversial. The Labour party made an early commitment to dealing with this issue but ended up dealing with the problem in a half hearted way by reducing the number of hereditary peers. This means that now, when one of them dies, the political party in the Lords has a little election to choose who shall fill the dead person's shoes.

In the last parliament there was another half hearted attempt at reform. There was a so called free vote but Blair loyalists were rushing back from all corners of the country to align themselves in a way that would most benefit their political careers (I know because I was on a health select committee visit at the time).

To retain the current system (as apparently favoured by Blair) means a continuation of patronage and cronyism and we need to move to a fully elected second chamber. However, I do have to say that I would prefer a different system of election because, with our current system of first past the post, it would be detrimental to democracy to perpetuate a system which potentially invests so much power in the hands of a minority.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

ID cards - does this add to the debate

A colleague sent me a link to this


Something non political

I am a girl (give or take a few decades)
I like gadgets
So, perhaps it's a by product of having a little more time on my hands during the recess butI have become addicted to the shiny shiny website. Having said that I am not at all sure just who would want to buy a baby gro for their i-pod.

But a chocolate fountain is another matter entirely.

Security update

For all those who were alarmed by my account of arriving at Waterloo in the middle of an "incident" I think I should provide an update.

Follow up has revealed that by the time the train reached the station the panic was over but there is a pecking order for notifying people. SW trains personnel are top of the list so that normal service is resumed as soon as possible and humble passengers are at the bottom of the list - hope that reassures people....

Thursday, August 04, 2005


Perhaps I am becoming slightly obsessed but I had the following experience when I travelled to London by train earlier this week.
Got off train as usual and strolled on to the concourse. Noticed that it looked a little quiet but popped straight into one of the shops to make a purchase. As I came out I noticed that there were rather more police than members of the public but I was still not unduly alarmed as I reckoned that this was one of those well-meaning exercises to "reassure" the public(I am one of those who is not reassured by the sight of police in droves - I want to know what is going on that they know about and I don't!).

Started to make my way to the taxi rank to be stopped in my tracks by an announcement stating that the concourse had now been given the all clear as the suspect package had now been identified.

Thanks very much for letting me off the train and onto a potentially dangerous concourse!!

It is just possible that the there was an all clear by the time the train reached the platform but it was spot on time so I can't help wondering whether there was a lack of communication here...