Sunday, 28 February 2010

A week's respite care for a million carers

I warmly welcome Nick Clegg’s recent pledge of a week’s funded respite care for the million carers who currently provide more than 50 hours of care per week. I am filled with admiration for all carers, including those who do it for more than 50 hours a week. The least they deserve is a week’s break each year, with respite care funded by the Government. We would fund this by scrapping Labour's botched care proposals and re-allocating the money to this Lib  Dem respite care proposal. This could mean a great deal to many carers living locally in Hendon constituency. In the same speech last Monday, Nick Clegg pledged to establish a commission, with cross-party support, to develop proposals for long-term care of the elderly, which will be tasked to report back within one year.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Northern Line confusion must end now

I am pleased to report that Tube Lines has now replied in detail to my email about weekend closures on the Northern Line. I am grateful for this, but having also had another email from London Underground (LU), I have replied to both organisations demanding urgent further clarification. Bluntly, there appear to be blatant contradictions between the emails from Tube Lines and LU. Tube Lines say that they proposed fewer weekend closures, but that LU turned them own. LU say that they are now urging Tube Lines to have fewer weekend closures and that they have no power to turn down proposals from Tube Lines. Read those last two sentences again, and you'll realise what a mess this is. All I want is for this work to be done with far fewer weekend closures than is currently planned, as weekend closures spell misery for people using the Northern Line. Since Tube Lines and LU both claim to want fewer weekend closures, it should be possible to now sort something out. I will update you as soon as I hear from both organisations.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Action on Cuba's human rights record

Following the tragic death on hunger strike of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, I have requested a meeting with the Cuban embassy, to discuss Cuba's appalling human rights record. Something can and must be done to improve the fate of the dissidents being harrassed by the Castro regime, including the 200 prisoners of conscience. The Castro regime's human rights abuses are just as disgusting as any that might be carried out by any fascist regime. My email follows below:

Monday, 15 February 2010

Board/JLC: Nick Clegg acted "swiftly and correctly" on Baroness Tonge

The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) have issued a joint statement welcoming Nick Clegg's sacking of Baroness Tonge as the party's health spokesman in the Lords. I am very pleased that the Board and the JLC have issued this statement in response to what I would indeed also call swift and correct action on the part of Nick Clegg.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Sports Minister responds on John Terry

You may recall that I emailed Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe to strongly protest at his inappropriate intervention in the FA's decision-making about John Terry. I have received a reply, below, from Mr Sutcliffe's department. I am amused to see that the email says: "This is a matter for the Football Association and the England management to deal with and not the Government." Yes, that is the point I was making - it was wrong for the Sports Minister to get involved!

Friday, 12 February 2010

Nick Clegg right to sack Baroness Tonge

Nick Clegg has sacked Baroness Tonge as the Lib Dem Health spokeswoman in the House of Lords. I strongly endorse his actions, which make me proud to be a Liberal Democrat. The Jewish Chronicle broke the news of this sacking.

Baroness Tonge had called for an inquiry into allegations that Israeli relief forces had harvested people's organs in Haiti. This grotesque conspiracy theory about Israeli organ trafficking has been commonplace among extremists for some time. It is an echo of the "blood libel" - the antisemitic myth that Jews kill non-Jewish children so as to use their blood in fiendish rituals. The blood libel has echoed down the centuries as a major theme of murderous anti-Jewish hatred, from the Middle Ages to the Holocaust and beyond. Its entry into anti-Israel discourse is an appalling feature of recent years.

Baroness Tonge's suggestion that the Haiti organ smear is sufficiciently credible as to merit an inquiry is totally incompatible with Liberal Democrat values. That's why Nick Clegg has sacked her, and I commend him for  doing so. Nick Clegg has been absolutely clear in calling her comments "wrong, distasteful and provocative".

I am proud to have been quoted in the Jewish Chronicle's initial coverage of this story, making clear my utter condemnation of Baroness Tonge's comments.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

A response from Tube Lines

I am pleased to report that someone at Tube Lines has emailed to say that I can now expect a response to my emails "as soon as possible". I appreciate this and I look forward to hearing from Tube Lines more fully soon.

London Underground responds, but where is Tube Lines?

Last week, I emailed London Underground and Tube Lines, as reported in the Hendon Times (if you click the link and scroll down) about the planned programme of weekend closures on the Northern Line. These closures will enormously inconvenience passengers and there are surely other ways of doing this work. I called for the release of Tube Lines' "optioneering" document - the document justifying Tube Lines' decision to go for this option, rather than other options which could include fewer weekend closures. I strongly assume that such a document exists, based on my own experience of working for a utility company. London Underground has helpfully replied and that full correspondence is here (here also is London Underground's Current Northern Line Closure Programme, which they have sent me). But I have yet to hear from Tube Lines; I have copied them in to my emails to London Underground and would strongly request a reply soon. Tube Lines must treat London Underground's passengers as their passengers. We deserve to see all the options that were considered when Tube Lines was planning this work. Tube Lines must publicly justify their arguments for these closures.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Sir Alan Beith's letter in The Independent

As a Vice-Chairman of Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel (LDFI), I was delighted to see a letter from LDFI's President, Sir Alan Beith MP, in yesterday's Independent. Sir Alan, a former Lib Dem Deputy Leader, eloquently expresses the case for a two-state solution that would bring peace, justice and security to Israelis and Palestinians alike:

Sanctions against Israel will not help

Lord Phillips is right to demand attention for the awful plight of Gaza's 1.5 million inhabitants (Opinion, 1 February), but his analysis misses some key points.

Egypt has closed its own border with Gaza because it does not want its own security threatened by the Hamas regime which controls the Strip. Neither do other moderate Arab nations such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Media alert: Political discussion on JNET Radio

On Thursday evening, I was live for an hour on the excellent political discussion programme on JNET, an online Jewish radio station. I thoroughly enjoyed this stimulating debate, which is everything that a radio discussion programme should be. The programme's repeated from 12pm on Friday 5 February; I'm on from about 1pm and I highly recommend listening. We had a lively discussion about a range of topics (including Israel) on which I was able to give a Lib Dem perspective. I obviously haven't heard it yet, having been on it live, but I do feel that it was a great opportunity to demonstrate the qualities that I believe I have as a candidate and potential MP - why not listen and judge for yourselves?

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Tube Lines must PROVE they have no other option

If someone offered to upgrade your shower, but said that you couldn’t use it for 82 weekends while the upgrade’s being done, would you say yes? Thank you, Gordon Brown, for creating the Public Private Partnership mess that governs London Underground. The Liberal Democrats advocated a bond issue instead, but Gordon knew better, of course. Hence the fiasco of the huge tranche of weekend and evening Northern Line closures announced this week by Tube Lines.

I have emailed senior managers at the Northern Line and Tube Lines asking to see Tube Lines’ “optioneering” document for its forthcoming work on the Northern Line. Such a document would list several options for carrying out the work, explaining the cost/benefit of each option and recommending one of them. It is standard practice to produce an optioneering document on projects like this. Tube Lines say they have no option but to close the Northern Line for so long. Well, prove it – release the optioneering document listing all the options that you considered before picking this one. Anything less is an insult to passengers. I fear that Tube Lines may have simply gone for the cheapest option for themselves, rather than weighting cost against other factors. These closures will grossly inconvenience passengers. Surely there is another way?

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Close fight forecast in Hendon

On 27 January, the Hendon Times reported that Hendon's Conservative candidate:
"faces current Labour MP Andrew Dismore and Lib Dem rival Matthew Harris for the seat, which is predicted to be one of the tightest parliamentary contests at the next general election."
It could indeed be tight, so every vote will count. Our borough of Barnet's neighbours include Brent and Haringey, both of which have elected Liberal Democrat MPs, so it has to be possible that Hendon can do likewise. I look forward to speaking to as many local people as possible over the coming weeks and if you have any questions, etc, then do please email me on and I'll be pleased to hear from you.

Monday, 1 February 2010

My email to Gerry Sutcliffe: Sports Minister's "improper pressure" on FA

I have tonight emailed Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe to utterly condemn his interference in the FA's decision-making about England football captain John Terry. My email reads:
Along with many others, I believe that it is grossly inappropriate for you, as Sports Minister, to intervene in this situation. I have never met Mr Terry or anyone else involved in the newspapers’ recent stories about his private life. I do not see why the alleged state of his marriage is my business or yours. I know little and care less about the content of these stories about Mr Terry, and am depressed by the extent to which newspapers are focusing on it, when there are surely more important matters to report than gossip about a footballer’s private life.