Archive for February, 2014
Cllr. Martin Terry has issued a Press Release confirming what I have believed for a matter of months that he will be resigning his position as councillor for Westborough ward and fight for a seat on Southend Council in another ward. That ward will be Thorpe.
He believes that his position as Westborough councillor is untenable following the breakdown in relations between himself and another independent councillor, Dr. Vel. It has been brewing for some time and is genuinely not a surprise. Not just for this reason but because Martin I think is a pretty smart man and he knew that defending his seat come 2015 in Westborough would not be easy, not because he isn’t a good councillor, I happen to think he’s relatively decent, but because for any independent it is hard to defend a seat on a General Election day when the turnout is extremely high.
His best option was always to get one of the three Thorpe independent seats, as Thorpe is the one ward where the independents can have some confidence about holding on to the seat even in a General Election year. His problem was they weren’t going to deselect anyone but then last year Cllr. Kaye announced she was leaving the independent group to join the Tories and the Thorpe/Terry marriage was seemingly a fait accompli (although in reality it was far more bumpy than expected).
Cllr. Terry came out quickly and strongly saying that he believed Cllr. Kaye should stand down and force a by-election because the people of Thorpe hadn’t voted for a Conservative councillor. I even penned (well, typed) a letter to the editor of the Echo for its letters page detailing that I thought it was very clear what was happening at the time. Here is a copy of the letter I sent that was subsequently published:
I was surprised to read that Cllr. Terry was prepared to give up his ‘safe seat’ of Westborough ward in order to challenge the recently defected Cllr. Kaye in Thorpe or should I say I wasn’t surprised at all?
You see Thorpe ward is the biggest stronghold of the independent group and Cllr. Terry knows that he has issues holding on to his seat in Westborough in 2015.
Cllr. Terry is clearly an intelligent man who doesn’t do things lightly. He remembers that his now former independent colleague Dr. Vel only held on to Westborough by 38 votes in May. He also knows that the last time the borough elections were held on the same day as the General Election (like they will be the next time he is due to stand in 2015) Westborough lost an independent councillor who slumped to third place that day in the polls.
There is a reason Cllr. Terry doesn’t want all-up elections to be held on the same day as either European or Westminster elections – he knows the independents would struggle mightily. Come to think of it did any independent councillor win in 2010? Oh yes…one – Cllr. Kaye in Thorpe. Suddenly it all becomes crystal clear…
Some might say I can read between the lines pretty well or that it was obvious to anyone with half a brain cell what was happening. I always found the fact he didn’t call for Cllr. Morgan to resign after he left the Lib Dems to join the independent group slightly unedifying but apparently leaving a political party to join a group of independents is completely different to the vice versa. Who knew?
I expect the Echo to be running this story tomorrow. The Council I presume will set the by-election for Cllr. Terry’s Westborough seat for May 22, so the people of Westborough ward will be choosing two councillors on that day. Cllr. Collins will be defending his seat for a full four-year term and they’ll be one other seat up for grabs for a one-year term.
Having been at the forefront of planning for this eventuality, I know who the Lib Dems have lined up and I believe he’s a man who can get things done. I won’t announce who it is yet because no by-election has been called (and the candidate therefore hasn’t been confirmed by the local party) but I can confirm we’ve been planning for this and Westborough will be a top priority for the Lib Dems come May.
If you were not listening to Nick Clegg’s LBC phone-in programme this morning and you don’t follow any Lib Dems on Twitter or are friends with any Lib Dems on Facebook, then you may have missed the open offer that the leader of the Liberal Democrats made to his UKIP counterpart this morning about debating the merits of being in or out of the EU. You may have been say on the exercise bike watching the Curling for instance but I have no idea who’d be doing such a thing…
This is what Nick Clegg said:
I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I will challenge Nigel Farage to a public, open debate about whether we should be in or out of the European Union. That’s the choice facing the British people.
He is the leader of the party of OUT, I am the leader of the party of IN. It’s time for a proper public debate so that the public can listen to the arguments and decide for themselves.
It is a bold move but a move that (short-term) at least won’t harm the Lib Dems. As a member of the party but someone who isn’t wed to the EU (I do think we are better in than out based on simple economics of it all) I would like to actually hear the case for both options straight up in a debate. I think there are a lot of people who are firmly ensconced in the out camp because they have lapped up the ‘small island’ mentality believing that immigration is the biggest problem facing the country, however I think there are a lot of people who still have open minds on this front and would actually like to hear both sides of the debate straight up.
Of course I think Nick would perform fantastically because I think he’s a very good speaker. Farage would be firmly more style over substance. Also the public perception of Nick Clegg is so low that any victory (even a small one) would be seen by the press and people at large as a real boost for the Deputy Prime Minister.
The only problem is whether this opens the door to Farage in terms of Prime Ministerial debates come the spring of 2015. Personally I am fine with any party who puts up MPs in enough seats where they could mathematically be Prime Minister being involved in these debates. I have held this position for a long time. The public have the right to hear these people speak and debate many topics. Of course we don’t know if they will return in 2015 and even if they do, in what guise, but I think they added something to the national debate and would welcome them returning.
Nigel Farage’s press people have said he’ll reply tomorrow to the offer and we wait with baited breath (well maybe not) but it would be a fascinating debate between two people on complete opposite sides in this regard. Our position within the EU is something that we should openly discuss, but to do that we need to know more than what we hear through the biased media.
Hearing things straight from the politicians mouths I think only enhances our knowledge of where they stand and why they have those opinions and in turn we can weigh up the pros and cons of each side of the debate to decide how we feel about it. I genuinely believe most people don’t have enough knowledge of why EU membership is important or not (I include myself in that) so anything that gives me more knowledge is something I’d like to see.
It is a bit like your granddad telling you about his plan for how he’s going to woo Katy Perry or your old man talking about how he’s still ready and able if Roy Hodgson calls on him for the World Cup squad. We all have dreams and we certainly all have daydreams but the thought of Labour beating the Lib Dems in Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam is fanciful at best, at worst it is a waste of resources and a short-term PR exercise.
Like most of the new breed of activist, I’m a believer in electoral math, or as I’m English I should say maths. National polling is all well and nice but elections are won and lost in the vast majority of cases due to what is happening on the ground. We are seeing this more and more and many people still cling on to national polling as a good indicator of what is going to happen at elections, heck I’ve seen people say that national polls dictate what happens in parish town elections, I know, madness.
So anyway on to Sheffield Hallam, a seat the Lib Dems have held since the 1997 collapse of the Tories and John Major’s exit. Every General Election since (and including) that one, the Lib Dems have won going away. As it stands it is the third safest Liberal Democrat seat in the land. It isn’t a target seat for Labour and whilst I can’t say never will be, it certainly won’t be for a long, long, long time. The area is broadly liberal and social conservative, not exactly the home of people who embrace Labour.
Now of course the national trend on the Lib Dems and certainly Nick Clegg is negative, quelle surprise. I won’t sit here and type that the country love Nick Clegg and his party, because that would be wide of the mark. The party have hemorrhaged votes and support in the past four odd years but that has come primarily in areas that weren’t natural Lib Dem territory. People and areas that have been respective to the party for many years have seen the drop-off being far less.
Moving on to Sheffield Hallam itself, it has a university, students loved Nick Clegg, students now don’t love Nick Clegg, that means Nick Clegg will lose a seat where there are lots of students, that is the lazy thought process. Now I haven’t checked how many students are enrolled at Sheffield Hallam, far less those who have got their vote at their university home instead of the parental home, far less those who actually bothered to vote in 2015, but if all of these people voted LD and now switch their allegiance to Labour, will that be enough to overcome the 19,000 deficit they had in 2010? Somehow I doubt it.
Now it is true that others will have drifted away, so lets look at how the councillors in this seat are doing. Well they are still doing rather well, in 2012 they received just shy of 50% of the vote, even in 2011, which was probably the Lib Dems bottoming out, they got over 44% of the vote. Labour were 11% shy and last time out they were 20% shy. Yes local elections and national elections are different and there will be those that support Lib Dems locally but won’t nationally but enough to overturn such a large deficit?
Lastly – and this is the biggest issue – if the Lib Dems and Nick Clegg lose in Sheffield Hallam in 2015, and that is a huge if but we’ll play the game. They’ll lose it to the Conservative party and not the Labour party. The last time Labour won this seat? It hasn’t happened yet – in history. The area just isn’t receptive to Labour and they will not win. It was Tory all the way through its history bar a 1916 by-election until the Lib Dems came in and built a power-base locally.
The whole issue of Labour unseating Nick Clegg in Sheffield Hallam is just the delusions of a madman. It won’t happen. No matter how much you say it will and how hard you are going to try, it just won’t happen. History tells you that, polling tells you that, demographics tells you that, there is nothing that tells you a win there is possible in any way whatsoever. The only thing this story does is publicly say that Labour are still anti Lib Dem and not give an excuse for those Labour voters who have come across from the Lib Dems to go back. They want no public softening of their approach to the Lib Dems.
This whole story is quite simply a short-term PR stunt. If they fail to win Sheffield Hallam and get egg on their face then they won’t care because this story will be consigned to the annals of election history quite swiftly after the 2015 General Election. They want to show the electorate how much they dislike Nick Clegg and maybe even get the party to pour in extra resources themselves in the seat. The fact of the matter is Labour’s chances of winning Sheffield Hallam are identical to me winning the EuroMillions tonight, I suppose in that case I should at least buy a ticket…
I haven’t written anything about dating in months. Either that means I am on the quiet doing exceptionally well on this front and have chosen not to write about it as not to jinx it or absolutely sod all is happening so there is nothing to write about, I’ll let you have a think about that for a minute.
Yeah it’s the latter of the two. I mean seriously…
Anyway tomorrow is the day for couples to feel pressurised into being romantic and for those with a secret crush on someone to kinda reveal themselves in a ‘well I’ll dip my toe in the water but will have plausible denial if it all goes tits up’ kind of way. So awesome.
I have quite brilliantly managed to go through my whole life without either being in a relationship on this day or trying to tell someone I was romantically interested in them. Impressive stuff. Although to be fair you could go through pretty much every day of the calendar and I would be able to fulfill both of those criteria.
The point of this post though isn’t to lament but to rejoice. Valentine’s Day is just a Hallmark holiday designed to split the Christmas and Easter markets. Surely people in love don’t need a special day dedicated to the notion that they are in love? Surely they would be in love all the time and therefore make a special effort on more than just one occasion a year when dictated to by the calendar?
I love and rejoice the fact that I’m single at this time of year. I imagine it must be a pretty stressful situation for a significant number of couples as they feel the need to be forced into having certain feeling amplified. I’m notoriously the type of person that goes against the grain, if someone tells me I should be feeling x then I’ll automatically veer to y. I have been like this for many years. I don’t like to be told how to feel and anyone telling or cajoling me into feeling a certain way will in all likelihood not find themselves successful.
I remember friends in the past lamenting being single on Valentine’s Day, like they had failed and they used to say how unfair it was when those who weren’t single publicly showed off how happy they were in a relationship. It annoys me that people feel like that thanks to this stupid holiday, thanks society. Fair enough you might think but when they got into a relationship then they would do just the same and it always made me laugh, then when they split up with their partner and were single the next year they would moan about it all over again. Hilarity.
It seems that Valentine’s Day is often not about being romantic with your partner and showing them how much you love them, but in these Social Media times it is more about showing off how happy you are to the world, certainly for the younger generation. Why do we as a race have that urge to show off how happy we are? Is it to show everyone one else or is it to show the one we are meant to love?
Answers on a postcard.
So here we are. For those who are single then than your lucky stars that you aren’t going to be under pressure to show how much you like your partner. One thing I’ve found in life is that pressure situations lead to heightened tensions and heightened situations that go well are terrific, heightened situations where things do not go well lead to sad times.
There is absolutely naff all wrong with being single. Naff all. Sure if the right person walked into my life I probably wouldn’t be shedding a tear but there is nothing to feel down about. It is just a day designed to make money. It shouldn’t influence your feelings or outlook. So for me tomorrow is just Friday, it’ll be the same as most other Friday’s (although I don’t need to do any food shopping so I might not walk to the supermarket), I shall wake up, I shall work, I shall eat, I shall drink, I shall shower, I’ll watch some TV and I’ll not care about how I’m not doing this with anyone or have any feelings for anyone and how no-one has these feelings for me, it just won’t even register on my radar.
What really gets my goat though is the advertising, I saw some greatest hits record being advertised earlier as the ‘perfect gift for Valentine’s Day’ – what horse expletive. I’m pretty sure the croonings of some singer is not the ideal way to tell someone that you love them. Seriously. God it annoys me so much. I hate the commercialisation of everything. Do advertisers not think we have our own minds?
I’m a Nick Clegg guy. It isn’t anything new and a big revelation but I am. I think he is the most intelligent of the party leaders. I think he is the best speaker of the four main party leaders and when you look solely at what he says then it makes the most sense. His biggest problem at the start of this parliament was clearly he was outmaneuvered by the Conservatives and showed a distinct lack of political nous. Also despite putting up good overall numbers, he actually oversaw his party losing seats in the House of Commons, spreading our resources too quickly instead of concentrating on seats where we should have won or should have held on. That was poor.
However four years on and he is facing the toughest fight with the electorate to date. The European Elections. The Lib Dems are going to get an ass-whooping, not because the electorate are pissed off with the Lib Dems but because the anti-European brigade are dominating the political landscape. UKIP are surging on the back of that sentiment and both Labour and the Tories are being a bit woolly-minded as to what they really think about the European question. They are both grown-up enough as a political party to know that being part of the European Union brings the country great benefits as well as the downsides, it is a two-way street, however they know the way the wind is blowing so they don’t want to fly the pro-European flag to any significant degree.
This is where Nick Clegg has decided to step out and put his party and his own position very much out there. In a terrific letter in the i on Tuesday, the Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister puts forward a cohesive and sensible viewpoint for why he believes that being part of the European Union is an important position for the country.
The problem is most people do not see the benefits unless they are involved directly in business. They don’t see that billions of pounds are generated and pumped into our economy due to our links with the largest single market on the planet. They don’t see that if we pull out and become an isolationist state that we will no longer have any say about what goes on politically in our back yard. It really is a better situation for all to try and piss from inside your tent to outside than attempting to do so the other way round. Also the long-term strategy of climate change is an issue. Look at the way our weather patterns are changing, this is clearly an issue that needs to be dealt with and being part of the EU can help us tackle what might be the biggest crisis to ever face the human race. Yet far too many people only see another Polish shop on the high street and they complain.
The one paragraph that really stood out though was the following:
I understand why Nigel Farage’s brand of pub-friendly Euroscepticism is appealing. It plays on the fear of the ‘other’, the fear of change, the belief that someone else must be to blame for the ills of the modern world. It offers beguilingly simple solutions: pull up the drawbridge, close the door and turn our back on the world. It is an appealing offer but one that is extremely dangerous.
Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner. This is exactly it. People are scared and want someone to blame for their lives not being as perfect as they believe they should be. The two easy targets are Europe and bankers. We have heard Labour lead the fight against bankers and what an evil sort they are and it sickens me. Talk about scapegoating one section of society believing it will mask all of their ills for not managing the economy but that is another subject for another day. Europe, and immigration of EU nationals is the issue that is now creating the most buzz. People don’t want non English people here as they are taking our jobs so they say, jobs that most English people do not want. In the early part of this century when the Poles decamped over here to do our cleaning, our data entry, our receptionist jobs, our hotel work and the like no-one cared because they worked hard and did jobs people didn’t want. Now people want them gone because they have seen the economy tank.
Did the economy tank because of an influx of EU nationals? No. No it didn’t. Would the economy recover if we kicked out all the EU nationals we didn’t want and did those jobs for ourselves? No it wouldn’t. That is such a simplistic view of the world and the economy and one that doesn’t bear any resemblance to reality. If we kicked out all foreigners how would we staff our National Health Service? There are not enough qualified health professionals to staff the NHS so in turn we’d lose front-line patient care. Is that what people want or do people that want to leave the EU want special dispensation put in to allow foreigners work visas if they are working in certain sectors?
What about foreign sports stars? I’m a football fan and enjoy watching great players from around both Europe and the World ply their trade in the Premier League. Do we not want these people playing in our leagues and paying the huge amount of tax that they give to the Treasury? See that is the thing, you know these foreigners? They are working over here and actually paying in to our Treasury and enhancing our society.
The problem is people are looking for the easy excuse, the simple narrative and that is that all our ills are due to Europe and foreigners. Recent reports on the flooding have said that we should pull out of the EU to sort out the floods. These reports say that with the money we spend putting into the EU pool we could sort out all our flood defences and on a simplistic level we could easily, however we’d also then in turn lose a lot of money that we come into the coffers due to our position within the EU and then in turn we wouldn’t have the money.
‘It’s the economy stupid’ was a war cry of the Bill Clinton 1992 Election campaign, well not the war cry but it was a slogan they used to remind staff about their primary message. The economy is the key to everything and it is a very hard thing to know in great detail. Do we get more out of being in the EU compared to what we’d get if we left? I don’t know the answer in a strict economical sense because I don’t have the figures but clearly we do get genuine benefits from being in rather than out. For that I’m happy to be involved with the party that has put its cards firmly on the table as wanting to protect the economic revival. I am pretty sure that leaving the EU would see the economy take a hit not only in the City but also in businesses up and down the country and businesses employ people and give people jobs and then they pay taxes etc. etc. etc.
So I’m very happy Nick has set out his stall so firmly. It might not be what people want to hear and it might go against the popular narrative but it is honest and it is a genuine position based on real economic and sociological issues. It isn’t based on scaring people with mis-truths and that is why the Lib Dems are I believe fast growing up as a political party.
Well Saturday didn’t go quite as planned. I was woken up at around 4:45 by my body coughing and eventually I was able to hack out a blood-ball from my throat. Not pretty in prose let alone in reality. I have been battling what I thought was a throat infection for weeks, I first suffered it over Christmas but it cleared up but around three weeks ago it seemingly came back. This time I lost my voice and my throat was much more raw. Being a typical bloke though I ignored it all but the presence of coughing up blood for several weeks finally made me drag myself to the drop-in clinic at St. Luke’s on Saturday morning.
I’m not one for going to the doctors. Since leaving home I’ve been twice. Once was because I had blurred vision in one of my eyes and then on Saturday. I always think I’m just wasting people’s time. So anyway I get into see the doctor and after saying ‘I’ve been coughing up blood for weeks’ she was pretty much straight on to the phone to the hospital. She wanted me to have chest x-rays. Naively I thought I’d pop along, have a chest x-ray and be home in time for Liverpool v Arsenal. I got into hospital and found myself admitted on to the Acute Medical Unit. Guessing the doctor at the clinic was really quite concerned.
I sat around bored (my iPod battery had died earlier in the day and I decided not to wait to charge it back up – y’know the whole in/out thing I had planned meant I didn’t worry about it). The staff nurse did all the vitals, temperature, blood pressure, blood sugar, all of which I aced. Go me. However the blood sugar test sent my body into shock. It always does when I have needles stuck into me. So about two minutes later there was literally a pool of sweat on the floor under the chair. Lovely.
An hour or so later I saw a doctor. He had a good look around my throat but he was happy with all my answers to his questions. He decided a blood test and chest x-ray just to be on the safe side but he thought it was probably complications from Tonsillitis or Laryngitis but he didn’t want to take any chances. So he went and took my blood. Cue more epic sweating and I went off for an x-ray. I felt perfectly healthy the whole time and looking around I really felt as though I was wasting people’s time. The doctor came past to see another patient and gave me the thumbs up and said I’d probably be going home but he had to refer something past a senior doctor. Guessing there was a small issue with either my lungs or my blood.
Doctor and senior doctor came down around 5 o’clock and said I was an extremely healthy young man. The key thing was my lungs looked in perfect shape and the issue was with my blood. However it wasn’t an issue that concerned them too much, not enough to keep me in anyway. Basically they think my body is still battling whatever infection it started fighting three weeks ago but the body is still fighting it. They recommended I talk as little as possible until I stop coughing up any phlegm or blood. Apart from that they were happy to see me be on my way. They said they could prescribe antibiotics but the blood work looked like my body was still fighting so didn’t want to add antibiotics to the mixture.
They did say though that I was right to see a doctor and that she was right to refer me straight to hospital, which made me feel a little bit better. I did have some of the main symptoms of either a blood clot or lung cancer, both quite clearly very nasty diseases. As is stands though I probably just have a secondary infection or something either in my throat or in the vocal chords. I should get better in time but if it doesn’t clear up totally within a few weeks I need more thorough tests.
So all in all extremely good news. I have been battling this for a while and apart from a few days and certainly morning’s when my throat was extremely painful, I’ve been in no pain whatsoever. It has just lingered and if it wasn’t for the constant throwing up of blood I wouldn’t have troubled anyone.
One other thing I want to write about though is the staff. I have been involved in Hospital Radio for several years, so I see a window into what the staff have to deal with but on Saturday I was a patient and saw first hand for several hours everything thrown at them. I was treated thoroughly and both the doctor and the senior doctor were truly first rate. The nurse who admitted me and did all my initial tests was great as well and I didn’t really have any dealings with any other staff. However I did watch the HCA’s closely as they get a lot of stick in the press for not being nurse’s and this one young HCA didn’t sit down between the time I was admitted at around 11:45 to the time she went for her lunch at around 2ish. She genuinely did not sit down once, not even for a few seconds.
I was extremely impressed by her considering the job she was doing was certainly not glamorous in any way shape or form. It included helping people to pee and poo as well as then clean them up. I didn’t see her roll her eyes once. I thought that was a miracle in itself. I know if I had to face some of the issues she faced in those five or so hours that I watched then I’d not be able to take it at all. So for all those rubbishing HCA’s for not being nurses then I think they should go and watch an HCA for a shift and I firmly believe their opinions will change mightily quickly.
As for me, I’ll live. I’ll heed the advice to basically only do essential talking until I have been cough and phlegm free for a good week or so. This of course means going on hiatus from radio presenting but I think it is the right thing to do. I have noticed that over the past three weeks my throat was at its worse following commentating on Southend v Hull and the two Wednesday night radio shows, so clearly whatever I have is effected by overuse of my vocal chords. So basically I am shut down from any significant social interaction for a while, luckily I’m used to that!
I’m sure within two or three weeks I’ll be able to talk for an hour or so without feeling razor blades in my throat and turning my sink a nasty scarlet red colour. Graphic to the end. Thank you to all those who have sent along their best wishes. I’m fine and it seemingly isn’t any of the real nasty things it could easily have been. I did think the treatment and performance of the staff at Southend Hospital was truly exemplary, not only towards me but what I saw and heard with my own eyes and ears.
I didn’t even tell you about the girl who had dislocated her knee whilst taking her rollerblades off, yes not whilst rollerblading, but whilst taking them off. She said everyone laughed when she told them, even the doctor. Internally I was laughing but did well to keep a cool exterior. That was an amusing wait for the x-ray.