Saturday, 31 October 2009

Diabetes research: send the Prime Minister a message

Sarah Ludford, Lib Dem MEP for London, has drawn people's attention to the Junior Diabetes Research Foundation's (JDRF) latest campaign to increase research towards finding the cure for type 1 diabetes. Ahead of World Diabetes Day on 14 November, the JDRF plans to collect at least 10,000 people's messages about this issue, and deliver them to the Prime Minister on 9 November. This is a great idea, so click here to leave your message. Money spent on medical research today can save more money spent on treating people's illnesses tomorrow. Sarah Ludford, by the way, is co-chair of the European Parliament's diabetes working group - a good example of the way in which the Parliament does work of direct relevance to people's ordinary lives, contrary to the impression that the media often gives us.

Friday, 30 October 2009

More news on my TA petition

The Hendon Times has posted this story about my Downing Street petition against TA cuts, now that the Prime Minister has backed down and abandoned the cuts. I am pleased to have been part of the campaign against these cuts and it's great that the Government eventually saw sense. Labour's proposed six-month halt to all TA training was a really bad idea.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Brown backs down on TA training cuts

The Government has finally abandoned its plan for a six-month halt to all TA training. I am really pleased that this has happened, and I hope that my Downing Street petition played some role in pressuring Gordon Brown into this climbdown. It was a completely mistaken cut from start to finish and I don't know what Labour was thinking of.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

TA climbdown alters nothing substantial

The Government has slightly amended its planned six-month halt to all TA training. A £20m spending cut has become a £17.5m spending cut. Spot the difference. They surely might as well not have bothered amending the plans at all, if they were not going to amend them significantly. I again urge you all to join the thousands who have signed my Downing Street petition urging Labour not to halt all TA training for six months. If we keep up the pressure, Gordon Brown might further shift his position.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Shadow Defence Minister Bob Russell signs my TA petition

Thousands of people have signed my petition to the Prime Minister opposing the six-month halt to Territorial Army training. I've had an email to say that Bob Russell MP, Lib Dem Shadow Defence Minister, is among them - for which thanks! Why not add your name? The more people sign the petition, the more likely it is to generate such publicity as to force the Government to think again.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Quiz Supper on Saturday 14 November

If you would like to buy tickets for Barnet Liberal Democrats' Quiz Supper, please click here for info, including contact details. This will be a fun quiz night with no politics, and you're welcome either to come on your own or with a group of people. We are asking people to please book in advance, so that we know how many people to cater for. I hope to see lots of you there.

Colonel Kemp's UN testimony on Gaza

I was fascinated to read Colonel Richard Kemp's testimony to the UN Human Rights Council on the Gaza War. I agree with his expert opinion and would recommend this (short) piece to anyone interested in the politics of the Middle East - this really deserves to be seen.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Northern Line plans clarified - good news

On Tuesday, I asked the London Mayor for clarification of his plans for the Northern Line. In response to this, a local newspaper, the Times, has spoken to Transport for London (TfL). TfL told the paper that they currently have no plans to permanently split the Northern Line and I welcome their commitment to continued improvements to the Line's reliability. I shall continue to monitor the detail of what TfL is proposing and remain utterly opposed to any plans to reduce the number of Bank or Charing Cross trains on the Edgware branch. I raised this with the Mayor after a local resident had drawn it to my attention, so if there are any other issues that you would like me to raise on your behalf, please email me at and I shall gladly respond.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

My Downing Street Petition: End the six-month halt to TA training

The Government has ordered the Territorial Army to cease all training for six months. I have petitioned the Prime Minister asking him to reconsider - this is not the right way to save money. The TA provides troops who serve in Afghanistan and other places and Labour is totally wrong to impose this halt to training. I urge you to sign the petition and we'll see if we can change Gordon Brown's mind on this.

Don't split the Northern Line - my email to Boris Johnson

Railnews reports that London Mayor Boris Johnson could be considering a permanent split between the Bank and Charing Cross branches of the Northern Line. I have emailed the Mayor to say that this is a really bad idea. It would mean that ALL trains to and from Edgware were via Bank and ALL trains to and from High Barnet/Mill Hill East were via Charing Cross (or vice versa). So, if, for instance, you commute from Hendon Central into Bank or Tottenham Court Road each day, and you now found yourself living on the "wrong" branch of the Northern Line, you would have to change trains at Camden Town twice a day, every day, instead of getting a through train right from the start of each journey. I look forward to getting a reply from Mr Johnson soon.

Letter in The Independent

I have a letter in today's Independent. Here is the background, and the letter itself reads:

'Influential friends' woo the parties

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (12 October) claims that "all three parties were lavishly entertained by the over-influential Friends of Israel" at the recent party conferences.

At the Liberal Democrat Conference, the Friends of Israel's sole gathering was a fringe meeting about President Obama's efforts towards Middle East peace. As at most fringe meetings, drinks and sandwiches were available, but nobody was "lavishly entertained"; had Yasmin attended what was essentially a symposium on the peace process, she might well have enjoyed it.

There are also groupings of Liberal Democrat Friends of India, Palestine and Pakistan – are they also to be described as "overly-influential"? I drank a glass of wine at the Friends of Palestine's meeting before asking some critical questions, but I don't consider myself to have been "lavishly entertained" or "over-influenced". The Friends of India's reception was at what sounds like an excellent Indian restaurant, but I don't hear Yasmin complaining that guests were "lavishly entertained" at this event.

Why can Friends of Israel not make a normal contribution to the foreign policy debate without being labelled "over-influential" by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown?

Monday, 12 October 2009

Ongoing success of Save the Bull

I am delighted to see that Garden Suburb Theatre are putting on a play at the Bull Arts Centre on Barnet High Street later this month. I was a leader of the non-party campaign to save the Bull when it looked as if Barnet Council might sell its building. We campaigned for it to remain a place that could be hired by local arts groups. It is now occupied by Susi Earnshaw Theatre School and can be hired out of hours by groups like Garden Suburb Theatre, including groups from Hendon. This is exactly what we had in mind throughout the campaign and I am really proud that we achieved this.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Two jaw-dropping articles

Two articles that today made me wonder if I should laugh or if I should cry. First, Anne McElvoy on "the women who built Brand Cameron". I'd label this piece "unintentionally hilarious", but I'm not sure about the "unintentionally" - this is a sharply-written article by Ms McElvoy. From the Conservative Party Conference, Ms McElvoy reports that: "'Progressive'" posters modelled on Soviet revolutionary posters hang around the conference hall, slogans altered to reflect Cameronian priorities such as 'social responsibility'." Modelled on Soviet revolutionary posters? Excuse me, but how many millions of people were killed as a result of the Soviet revolution?!

I also loved reports of: "healthy food stands serving freshly made muffins and local specialities, replacing stewed tea and stale buns." "Local specialities"? At a conference in Manchester?! I have myself previously enjoyed a party conference in Manchester, and I yield to noone in my respect for the city's many restaurants, but I don't recall any local culinary specialities in the Conference Centre. And when did muffins become "healthy"? What is this pretentious nonsense? It will be hilarious for people to read this in twenty years' time, when this achingly trendy guff will have dated quite hideously.

The second article is the Daily Mail's report of the latest farcical goings on among some of the Tories at Barnet Council (well, some of the latest farcical goings on - there are too many for the Daily Mail to have included them all in one article).

Democracy Day at Ravenscroft School

I was delighted yesterday to be invited to speak to Year 11 pupils at Ravenscroft School in Barnet. The school was having its "Democracy Day" and pupils were electing representatives to the new School Council. I was asked to speak to pupils about what it is like to be a candidate and how parties fight elections. I was also asked to offer some feedback to some of the pupils seeking election to the School Council. This was enjoyable and interesting and very well-run by the school. All the pupils' speeches were excellent and if Democracy Day gets these pupils interested in voting later in life, then that's terrific - bad people get elected when good people don't vote. Of course, the school had been fair and invited representatives of the other two main parties to participate, not just the Liberal Democrats.

Monday, 5 October 2009

With friends like these...

I am shocked and saddened that Roberts Ziles and Michal Kaminski are honoured guests at the Conservative Party Conference. I am astonished that David Cameron has moved his Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) into a new grouping with such people. By contrast, I am proud that the Lib Dem MEPs sit in the Parliament's liberal group.

Don't clamp down on immigration, warns UN

A report from the UN Development Programme has warned Britain and other countries not to clamp down on immigration during this recession. The report warns that such a clampdown would not produce the economic benefits that many people imagine - quite the contrary. It tells the truth about managed migration and reminds readers of its benefits. The Liberal Democrats' Policy Briefing on immigration sets out what we think about this issue.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

David Cameron shows his true colours

I was stunned by David Cameron's interview on today's Andrew Marr Show. Have a look and draw your own conclusions.

Friday, 2 October 2009

We need a public inquiry on torture

At last week's Liberal Democrat conference, I spoke in a debate on torture. The British Government stands accused of complicity in torture, and while the accusations remain unproven, we must have a proper public inquiry into what is alleged to have happened. Torture is not only morally wrong, but also totally inefficient - all the research shows that people being tortured will say anything to make it stop, rendering the "evidence" thus obtained useless.

Also at Conference, I was among the organisers of Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel's (LDFI) fringe meeting, which was an exciting opportunity to hear about the latest American efforts to achieve Middle East peace. Nick Clegg visited LDFI's stall at the conference, and this picture shows (left to right) Nick, Cllr Monroe Palmer (LDFI's Chair), me and our Camden Lib Dem colleague Ed Fordham. We're shown holding LDFI's latest publication, a pamphlet by Dr Emanuele Ottolenghi on the challenges posed by Iran.

Ready to serve in Hendon

I would like to thank all the Hendon Liberal Democrat party members who attended last night's selection meeting, at which I was chosen as the Parliamentary candidate for Hendon. I thoroughly enjoyed answering members' questions after I had spoken, and I am truly honoured to have won the selection ballot. I now look forward to working hard to generate maximum support for the Liberal Democrats over the coming months.

For more on what I hope to achieve as candidate, see the local newspapers' coverage of my selection, in the Times and the Press.