Friday, June 30, 2006

World Cup quarter final predictions

Time for the weekend predictions for the World Cup Quarter Finals.

Germany V Argentina - Argentina should edge this but with home advantage it will be a close match. If I was to call it, I would go for a 2-1 Argentina win after extra time.

Italy V Ukraine - Both teams have not played too well, Italy struggled to get past Australia and the match between Switzerland and Ukraine was a total bore with them winning on penalties. Italy should win though a play like Shevchenko Ukraine could produce a shock. Italy 2-0 win

England V Portugal - The big one! what England will turn up? I think this time we will get it right and with Deco out, Ronaldo doubtful we have a good chance. England will win this 3-1 with two goals from Rooney.

France V Brazil - Brazil are clear favourites though in their past two world cup meetings, 86 in the quarter finals and of course the 98 World Cup saw France triumph. I have a sneaky suspicion that this will be the surprise of the round and I am going to say that France will win this on penalties after a 2-2 draw after extra time.

We will see tomorrow night what I get right and wrong.

Bromley & Blaenau By elections

I thought I would take the opportunity of commenting on last nights two Parliamentary By elections (Bromley and Chislehurst, Blaenau Gwent) and a Welsh Assembly by election(Blaenau Gwent). While the results were disappointing for Labour in both elections, it has to be remembered that by elections has seen protest votes against every single incumbent Government with poor performances occurring with regularity. Come the general election with the focus shifted nationally the result usually reverts to normality and in many cases the seat reverting back to the previous holder.

Looking at last night's performance, the result in Bromley was appalling for David Cameron's Tories, this was the 17th safest Tory seat and a five figure majority was reduced to just over 600. This is a seat that should be true blue Tory territory, every council seat in the recent May elections elected Tory councillors and nearly all by substantial margins, it is a very affluent constituency and the Tories should have performed substantially better instead of only just scraping in. From my knowledge of London, I would in no way describe this part of London as the most liberally inclined or progressive area of London. Indeed the late Eric Forth was one of the most right wing Conservative MPs and certainly not particularly progressive. though he was probably a good indicator of the views of many of the people who live in this area.

The Tories do need to ask themselves questions about their campaign tactics, the Liberal Democrats in by elections always play dirty, negativity and slurs is an integral part of their campaign strategy (and believe me I have seen it first hand in elections) and Chris Rennard their campaign chief is an expert at these tactics. When it comes to elections they are by far the dirtiest and most unscrupulous campaigners in politics, all this holier then thou attitude they like to give is hypocritical like most of their policies. The Tories did not fight back against this and let the message got around about 'three jobs bob' which referred to all the jobs that Bob Neill had and his refusal to resign his GLA seat if elected.

In a seat like Bromley they should have at least got a few thousand majorities, after all when we were winning by elections in the mid nineties we were having swings in our favour. To actually go backwards has to be quite worrying for the Tories and shows the fragility and volatility of their vote. They were lucky Bromley was so safe, as if they had lost this by election it would have been a humiliation for David Cameron. In retrospect, the Tories could have probably done with a different candidate though if you get the tactics wrong it may not have made much difference to the overall result.

From a Labour perspective, in Bromley we went from 2nd to 4th though some of this can be attributable to tactical voting. This seat has never been known as a bastion for Labour support and it was always likely to be the case that our vote would fall substantially. I would have liked it to be higher, but if people had realised it was going to be so close our vote would probably have fallen further to probably under 1000 and our deposit lost (5% of the vote needed). The momentum here was clearly with the Liberals who fought the seat hard.

Turning to Bleanau Gwent this is a seat that where we suffered a huge loss in support at last year’s election and saw the Independent Peter Law romp home. Until the election, this was one of our safest seats in the country, while we have made some comeback in the seat and an increased our vote it was not enough and lessons still need to be learned from the result. Bleanau should revert to Labour at the next election (not so sure about the assembly next year) as I believe that a great deal of the independent vote was a protest vote over events that have happened in the past and an opportunity to kick the government. A unique set of local circumstances existed which makes it difficult to fully read into the result, though quite clearly issues exist that are still prevalent and need dealing with.

Where next? Labour has been in Government now for nine years, any government that has been in for that length of time will hit a period of unpopularity, it happened under the Tories and it is happening under Labour. Having lead in the opinion polls for thirteen years (the longest ever) we now find ourselves behind, though only by a few percent (nothing like the 20+ deficits the Tories had under Major). Events that happened nationally have not been helpful to our position and we clearly need to re-engage with people. However, I do not believe we are in terminal decline or about to see Dave Cameron as PM. A new leader is likely to be elected in the next two years (most probably Gordon Brown) which inevitably will give a boost to Labour support in the short term (all new leaders enjoy some king of honeymoon period). The Labour Government has a lot to be proud of over our nine years in office, the duty now is to build on our achievements and to renew ourselves like any organisation has to do after a long period in government and this is by far the longest ever time we have been in power nationally.

I would welcome comments.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Chairing Way we Work panel

Tonight I Chaired my first Way we Work Panel, this is the scrutiny panel that deals with finance and corporate issues in Merton Council. With it being the first panel and with many new members it involved explaining various procedures and how the panel will operate. Having been a new member only four years ago, I know how baffling it can all be trying to find your way around and understanding the issues that are discussed.

The meeting went on for two hours and despite having chaired numerous meetings I felt pretty exhausted by the end.

Still I have chaired a lot more difficult meetings in my time as a councillor. Indeed having been appointed Chair of the Street Management Panel in my first year as a councillor, the first meeting lasted three hours with a packed public gallery and involved having to deal with all kinds of accusations from the public on some of the items, I can tell you it was a rude awakening and as a Panel which had a great deal of public representations it was not the easiest. By comparison this was easy, though after four years as a councillor and having literally chaired dozens of meetings in that time you do improve over time. If I looked back at what I was like as Chair four years ago, I would in all honesty probably cringe with embarrassment.

Tonight was a great deal easier; the opposition were pretty constructive and even Cllr Rod Scott from the Tories (who was featured on the blog a few weeks ago was constructive). The most embarrassing moment of the night for me was my mobile going off after I had ticked off Rod Scott, a bit hypocritical to say the least. Still it once went off as I was making a speech at full council, I do need to learn to switch it off.
The panel agreed to set up a review group into the new Age Discrimination Act. At our next meeting we are looking at doing a larger scale scrutiny review, e government was suggested. Already the next meeting has a number of agenda items to be discussed so it will be a busy time and with my Labour group budget responsibilities I have a busy few months ahead.

Time for Timmy to throw in the towel

Poor old Tim Henman, out of Wimbledon in the 2nd round and beaten by Federer in one hour 24 minutes. Down to 64 in the world rankings and clearly a player who has seen better days. In terms of British players he has been our most successful player since Fred Perry but unlike Perry he never won Wimbledon or got to the final despite playing in four semi finals.

Today he announced he hoped to stay on the tour for a few more years, why I ask? his best days are gone, he is never going to win a grand slam and will probably sink further in the rankings. Tim has done well in his time but now is the time to throw in the towel.

Spain crash out

In my tips I got seven out of eight right for the 2nd Round which was not a bad return, the only one I got wrong was Spain who crashed out of the World Cup tonight. At every World Cup or major tournament the Spanish always seem to get knocked out at an early stage. France V Brazil will be a great match along with Germany V Argentina, two mouth watering matches to look forward to along with England V Portugal. Should be an interesting set of quarter finals.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The final Pollards Hill board meeting

Over the last four years, I have sat on the Board of Pollards Hill Housing Association. Since the formation of the Pollards Hill Housing Association board in 1998 the area has had £40 million spent on rebuilding large parts of the Pollards Hill estate and replacing sub-standard housing. While at times it has not been without its problems and at times issues have arisen, it has made a significant improvement to the area and has helped regenerate the Pollards Hill area. The rebuilding of the estate was completed on time and on budget last year.

Tonight was the last meeting of the board before it is absorbed into the main board of the parent company MOAT. This change was approved earlier this year by Merton Council and will allow MOAT to take out borrowings that they would have been unable to undertake under the current arrangements. In place of the board an estate committee will be established which will give residents a say over how the estate is run and will allow scrutiny of the performance of MOAT. This will also include overseeing the community initiatives fund that exists for the residents of Pollards Hill and was established as part of the housing transfer from Merton Council. This fund has been used to fund initiatives on behalf of residents including outings, trips to the theatre and to find schemes that are beneficial to the Pollards Hill community.

Thanks to the work of the then Labour controlled Merton Council that set up the housing transfer; this has led to the considerable improvement in housing. Along with the Single Regeneration money Pollards Hill received under a Labour government between 1998 and 2002 this has contributed greatly to improving the overall environment of the area.

Pollards Hill is not without its problems; it is one of the most deprived areas in Merton but thanks to the decisions taken by then Labour council this area has improved considerably. If anyone's says that politicians cannot make a difference they should come to Pollards Hill.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Wimbledon washout

What's new?

What a riot

Last night’s match between Holland and Portugal saw 16 yellows and 4 reds the most ever in a World Cup game. I have to admit that it was great entertainment and I enjoyed every moment of the match, the referee was clearly useless. I am glad that Portugal won, the Dutch would have been far tougher opponents in the quarter finals and with Deco out we have a great chance to progress to the Semi Final. I cannot believe as well that Van Basten failed to put Van Niesletroy on, if he did it might have been a different story, it seems Dutch infighting has again happened as seems to happen in every time they qualify for a major tournament.

Sorry to see the Aussies go today, Italians again put on a great defensive performance to win through win their 94th minute penalty.
As thing stand I have got five out of five on the 2nd round predictions.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Double delight

Again, it was no classic but as predicted England are through to the Quarter Final of the World Cup. The performance of the team has to improve if we are to progress, Lampard was awful again, Beckham was poor (apart from the winning free kick) and as for the defence, they really need to get their act together especially John Terry and Ashley Cole. The simple truth is if we play like that against Holland or Portugal, we will be heading home. In the next match Rooney will hopefully be fully fit, if he does we may have a chance (and he is overdue a big game) but the service needs to improve considerably along with the possession and passing which was woeful. Anyway, England has six days to go to get it right.

On another sporting note, Cork won the Muster Hurling final by three points against Tipperary and I am a tenner up over my work colleague John (you should know by now not to bet against Cork). In case you are realising what is Hurling? it is basically in layperson's terms a game that is an outdoor team sport of Celtic origin, played with sticks(similar to a hockey stick) and a ball. The game, played primarily in Ireland, is arguably the world's fastest field team sport in terms of game play. The objective of this field game is for one of two teams to score more goals and points, during a match, than the other. A team comprises 15 players (I got an easy explanation off wikipedia).

Cork have won the All Ireland Hurling Championship for the past two years and last year I was luck enough to get a ticket to the final(they are like gold dust) in front of 82,00o in Croke Park, Dublin. I have been a fan of Gaelic games since I was a ten year year old (Gaelic football is the other game) when I was taken to an All Ireland Semi-Final at Croke Park that involved Monaghan and Kerry. With my mother from County Monaghan and my Dad from County Cork, I have split allegiances though every summer it provides some great matches and I enjoy the thrill of watching Gaelic games.

This afternoon I was lucky enough to watch both games in Ganleys in Morden, which had both the hurling and the football showing. In term of the result, it is double delight and I am not one of these people who does not want England to win despite my Irish heritage. However, if the Republic were in the World Cup, I have to confess that I would be cheering them on.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

2nd round predictions

I thought I would give my predictions for the World Cup 2nd Round.

Germany V Sweden (Germany will edge this though it may be close)
Argentina V Mexico (An easy win for Argentina)
England V Ecuador (Should win this but England never seem to make it easy)
Portugal V Holland (Will be a great game, maybe penalties??, I have a feeling that Portugal may edge this game which will set up a re-run of Euro 2004 Quarter Final if England win through)
Italy V Australia (Italy should win thru, Australia will however put up some resistance and may make a match of it)
Switzerland V Ukraine (Ukraine will edge this, another close match)
Spain V France (Spain should edge this game, but France on their day could come out on top, it is just a question of whether they perform or not, if it goes to penalties my prediction will change to France as thee Spanish are awful in shootouts)
Brazil V Ghana (Brazil will cruise through against Ghana though they will be superior opponents to Japan)

Andre Agassi announces retirement

With Wimbledon coming up next week, Andre Agassi today announced that it will be last Wimbledon and will retire after US Open in September. I have to say that he has been a great player, one of only a select band to win all four tennis majors (Aus, French, Wimbledon and US) over the years he has consistently performed and had stayed on the tour until 36, which is unheard of these days. Anyway thanks for the memories and enjoy your well-earned retirement.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Guardian article - Councillor keeps in touch with blog

Thought I would post the article written about my blog in this weeks local guardian. In relation to the article it was pretty balanced article. The enjoys playing golf part?? I have played it once in three years(last Saturday) and I do not know what was on my mind when I put sugarbabes down, obviously round round must have been playing on the MP3 when I did my profile.

Councillor keeps in touch with blog
By Diana Pilkington
With it: Martin Whelton.
Once the pursuit of internet whizzkids who recorded their daily musings for all the world to read, the online phenomenon of blogging is now catching on with politicians.

In Merton one councillor with his finger on the pulse has launched his own web log, or blog, to keep in touch with his constituents. Martin Whelton, Labour councillor for Pollards Hill ward, has posted more than 100 entries on his blog since he started it in March. Mr Whelton, 31, said: "I think it's important as councillors that we are open and accessible and we communicate about things we are doing.

"Blogging is a growing industry and in the US more and more politicians have blogs. More people are using the internet and we need to exploit this technology." As well as posting details about the goings-on in his ward and attempting to expose what he sees as "the failures and contradictions of Merton minority Tory administration", Mr Whelton gives an insight into his personal life too.

A quick skim through the latest entries reveals Mr Whelton is an Aquarius born in the Chinese year of the rabbit who loves the Sugababes, enjoys playing golf and is an avid viewer of the World Cup.

He said: "At 31, I'm the oldest councillor in Pollards Hill the other two are 27 and 29. But there are very few young people involved in politics. The average age of a councillor is late 60s.
"People need to see that as councillors we are ordinary people. We're not complete politicos. We do have a life and other interests too."

Mr Whelton said his blog is popular with his friends and is a useful resource to his constituents.
Proving that people are actually reading his blog, Mr Whelton has received several comments in relation to individual postings.

But as encouraging as this is, it can be problematic too.
He said: "You have to watch things like potential defamation issues. I monitor the comments before I put them on the page but I try and let most appear as they were written.
"Sometimes you do get a few derogatory comments. There was a very derogatory one about MP Siobhain McDonagh in relation to the issue of academies in Merton, so I censored it."

As far as he is aware, Mr Whelton is the only councillor in Merton to have tapped into this new technology.

To see his efforts, visit

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The longest day

Longest day of the year and it all downhill from now the until December in terms of daylight.

Path to the semi

Well at least we will not meet Argentina this side of the final but if we beat Ecuador it will be a match against either Holland or Portugal, should be very interesting and if it is Portugal it will be our opportunity to gain revenge for our loss in the Euro 2004 Quarter Finals. With knock up stage coming up, it starts to get very interesting.

Holland V Argentina was a total bore tonight and one of the most boring matches of the World Cup to date.

Thames Water

Today Thames Water announced that they have made profits of £346.5 million and yet they have applied for drought order in London due to the low level of water reserves. In terms of leakages they are running at 894 million litres a day. This morning I get handed to me at Victoria Station a guide called 'what you can do to save water'. While the advice is common sense, coming from Thames Water it ranks of gross hypocrisy. On the back they boast that they are spending £1/2 million a day on reducing leaks and they still missed leakage targets for third year in a row. With a rough calculation this equates to spending of about £170 million a year (about 1/2 their profits).

Anyone who has had dealings with Thames Water will know what a lousy firm they actually are. I find it hard to believe that despite our shortage of rain that we are looking at drought orders when parts of the world that have a fraction of the rainfall that London has still manage to survive with no talk of shortages or drought orders. If they spent more of their profits on leakages then we would probably have no need for these drought restrictions.

Although not a cynic, I do wonder if this application for a drought order is a ploy to get water meters installed universally and help increase their profits further. They clearly still need to spend more but I have a lack of confidence in the ability of Thames Water to actually deliver, the profits will no doubt continue to rise.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Top of the Pops gets axed

I have not watched it for years but I have to say I feel sad at its demise, when I was a kid I used to remember it always being on every Thursday night and finding out who was no one. To last 42 years is a heck of a run, but in recent years it has been shifted to BBC2 graveyard slots on Sunday evenings. The diversity and joy of music is shown my addiction to my MP3 as I write this Toccata and Fugue is on(my tastes are very diverse), I hope the Beeb do not see music as something that gets very little TV coverage as that would be a great shame in my view.

Another lamentable performance

Ok England topped the group but despite leading twice, we only drew 2-2. The defence can only be categorised as dreadful, at sixes and fours. England now has Ecuador in the next round, they should beat them but in all honesty, I cannot see much hope for them beyond that. A turnaround of huge proportions is needed and in all honesty I believe they will bow out when they meet a bid side like Argentina or Holland there likely opponents in the Quarter Finals.

Owen looks out for the rest of the World Cup and Rooney sadly lacks match fitness at the moment, I felt sorry for him as clearly he is not at top form and the showed his frustration after being substituted. Anyway, these are my thoughts after tonight’s performance and it not looking optimistic. Gerrard again scored a great goal and as usual delivered the goods.

Monday, June 19, 2006

First Capital, it is getting worse

Since taking over the Thameslink franchise the service has got a great deal worse. Delays are on the increase and today was no exception with a broken down train in front at Farringdon. Along with cancelled trains, which seem to be increasing along with regular delays, every day seems to have some train problem and excuse. The service was getting better under the old provider, under First Capital is getting worse. They really need to get their finger out as the train service is sub standard.

Monty luck runs out again

What does Colin Montgomerie have to do in order to win a golf major, a shot lead going into the final hole and he has a double bogey. You have to feel sorry for him it seems that lady luck is never on his side and he may never win the elusive golf major which he has been trying to win for years, 43 majors and as of yet no success, will luck ever be on his side?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Fathers Day

Went for a Fathers Day lunch today at the Blue Anchor in Tadworth(great food!) along with my mum, brother and his family. We sat and had lunch in the beer garden. Can I take this opportunity of thanking my Dad for all the assistance and advice he has given to me over the years and for the favours he still does for me(like cut my lawn and do my garden at home). It is on days like this that I appreciate everything you still do for me.

Campaign for 2010 starts again

This morning along with my colleagues Zenia and Richard and a few helpers we were out talking to people in Pollards Hill and listening to their concerns. As councillors, engaging with the local community all year is vital and this will be an ongoing part of our campaigning over the next four years.

Campaigning outside of elections is a key to success, the old adage ‘we only see you at election time' is certainly not true in this area or in Mitcham and Morden we campaign all year round as it is important that we do not get complacent or take the electorate for granted. That is a major reason why we held 27 out of 30 seats in the area at the recent local elections, one of the highest numbers in the country.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

World Cup latest

Three days to go until England meet Sweden for top spot in Group B and a game against either the ole enemy Germany or Ecuador. Specualation is still rife who will play up front and whether Owen will get dropped for the first time under Erikkson, my money is on the Crouch-Rooney partnership to start against Sweden.

In group E things are getting very interesting, Ghana beating Czech Republic and Italy drawing with USA. If Czech Republic beat Italy and Ghana beat the USA then Italy will be going home, promises to be very interesting! Next weekend sees the start of the knock out phase, that is when the fun really begins.

Argentina had a crushing win against Serbia, the match against Holland should be a blockbuster and may determine who England meet in the Quarters if they win the group and their 2nd round match.

My round of golf

Played a round of golf tonight with my Dad, first time I have been round the gold course for three years. Swing needs practice and putting could do with some improving, I am so bad that I considered doing a five on a par 3 to be a success. Oh and looking for golf balls was a nuisance though near the end when I put it into rough, I came across other lost golf balls so it seems I am not the only one in the 'pretty hopeless category'. Could do with some practice and might get some lessons soon, it is just a question of fitting it in.

Even though it was getting dark by the time we finished, it did nothing for my hay fever, and I seem to be sneezing incessantly. Time too get those tablets out!

100 Blog postings

The landmark 100-blog postings have been reached, I started this blog off as a bit of fun in late March and it is still going three months later. The last three months have been an enthralling time, so much has happened and so much upheaval.

The blog will continue, I can assure you. Exposing the failures and contradictions of Merton minority Tory administration will also continue to be a major part of this blog. Also included will be information on Pollards Hill as at the end of the day I am the ward councillor for that ward and it is the part of my work as a councillor that is most important.

However the blog will continue to have a variety of other information on other stuff, I do have a life outside of Merton Council and I do not want to bore everyone rigid with politics the whole time.

Mitcham Carnival

This afternoon I went along to Mitcham Carnival. This carnival has now been going for a number or years, a few years ago, the organisers had financial problems and the Council took over the running of the carnival. My colleague Cllr Ian Munn has done a tremendous amount in organising the event, the day was a great success with many different stalls, performances, and a fun fair, a float procession to the Carnival also takes place through Mitcham to the venue at Three Kings Piece. Later on in the day hundreds of balloons were released from children of Gorringe Park School in North Mitcham which was great sight to see, hopefully the balloons will travel long distances.

All in all the day went extremely well on a glorious summer day. From Pollards Hill we also had a joint stall between Commonside Trust and Community Centre which great to see especially as both organisations are due to join up later this year. The stall was also very useful for the free suntan lotion samples (which they were desperate to give me) and I needed them as I had forgotten to slap on the suntan lotion, which is necessary on a day like today especially as I get sun burnt very easily!

I would also give my appreciation to all those officers who helped Ian Munn in making the day a great success, you deserve immense credit for putting on such a good show.

Academies are a Labour asset article

I have posted an article from Siobhain McDonagh in The Guardian about academy schools one of which Tamworth Manor is in my ward Pollards Hill. I have been a governor at the school since 2002. On Monday, we have the school adjudicator meetings, 5 pm at Mitcham Vale and 7 pm at Tamworth Manor, which will determine whether these will go ahead in September. A court case is also to take place in early July where a parent Rob Macdonald will be challenging the decision in a judicial review.

Academies are a Labour asset
The government's plans for schools helped Labour hold onto a marginal council at the local elections.

June 15, 2006 10:47 AM Printer Friendly Version
Last month, you may have missed one of London's more interesting election results. This was in the very marginal Borough of Merton, which everyone had written off as an inevitable Tory gain. But, needing to win just two more wards to take control, they fell short. They did win seats in Wimbledon, a traditionally Conservative area. But in my more working class constituency Labour held all 27 seats, many with increased majorities. Why?

Well, we had a reasonable record, and clear policies for the future: low council tax rises, more bobbies on the beat and cleaner streets. But one other factor may have been Labour's plans for two new academies in Mitcham, which local Tory leaflets opposed.

So I was surprised to see a one-sided Guardian report saying "ordinary working class families" in my constituency were backing a court case to stop Academies. Aside from the fact the case was not brought by ordinary residents, but by a well-known Socialist party activist who doesn't even live in Merton, and the paper forgetting to mention the courts had already refused judicial review, the Guardian's biggest mistake was saying local people oppose academies.

The article said the schools aren't failing, but although Merton Council has invested heavily in rebuilding the schools, which now have some of the best facilities in the country, almost everyone locally thinks Mitcham Vale and Tamworth Manor are seriously bad schools.
There are constant complaints about bad behaviour. In one school, 90% of boys fail to get 5 GCSEs. Value added figures (the amount schools add to a child's education) place it in the worst 1% of schools, the other in the bottom 4%. Local parents won't send their children there. This year, only 82 local parents wanted their child to go to Tamworth Manor, 50 to Mitcham Vale. Yet there are 480 places to fill.

When I visited local primary schools recently to talk about academies, many parents said it didn't matter. "Don't worry Siobhain," they'd say, "I don't need to talk to you about this because there's not a cat in hell's chance I'll let my kids go to those schools". But at my weekly surgery I am always meeting parents devastated to find the only place for their child really is at one of Mitcham's hated schools.

The new academies will open in September. They will not be selective, and will introduce sixth forms for the first time in my constituency. One will specialise in enterprise and sport. Ironically, it will be sponsored by a David Cameron supporter, Lord Harris, but while I disagree with him on many issues, I have to admire the fact that at one of his existing schools 91% of students get five good GCSEs. The other will be a Church of England school, although it doesn't just have the support of local church-goers.

Mitcham is one of the country's most ethnically mixed communities, and there has long been a demand from local Muslims, Tamils, west Africans and Irish for my constituency's first faith-based high school. So it's no surprise consultation showed parents wanted academies. They want a new ethos at both schools, higher standards, more discipline and better exam results. More than 500 parents came to meetings and over 600 replied to surveys. Over two thirds were in favour.

If the Guardian wants to find a popular cause that will overthrow Tony Blair's government, opposition to academies is not it. The Tories' mistake in Merton was to believe vocal, politically motivated opponents and ignore the "silent majority". By printing one-sided anti-academies articles, I hope the venerable Guardian hasn't made the same mistake.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

England leave it late

Well I thought that the match was heading towards 0-0 until robot dancer gets the equaliser after missing some clangers earlier in the game, he really should have put them away. England did not play well at all, some of the passing was terrible and Owen really does seem to be out of form. At least in the next match we can maybe give Theo Walcott a run out now that we are through to the second stage.

The positive news is the return of Rooney a month ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of predicting his return, he did not play great but given a bit of match fitness and he should be ok. In terms of other players Lampard really does need to improve his shots on goal, they went all over the place, maybe passing it to a forward would not go amiss. In terms of defence we had too mnay lapses and Ashley Cole did not play well. And what can I say about Steven Gerrard, another brilliant goal not quite cup final standard but a few more of those would not go amiss.

Next time round please score earlier as if it had been 0-0 I would have been much vitriolic in my comments. Anyway we are through to the next round were we will face Germany or Ecuador, we need though to up another gear as we will not get away with a performance like that against a top side.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Neighbourhood Governance Scruitny Review /Commission meeting

Tonight we agreed at the Overview and Scrutiny Commission to set up a review into Neighbourhood Governance. On the review will be John Bowcott from the Tories and Peter Southgate from the Residents. This will be the first review since 2001 when the Area Forums were established and will also consider issues like community engagement with the public alongside consideration of what should be the role of area forums and looking at community governance as a whole, powers etc. While we are still to consider the full terms of reference, it will be an opportunity to find out the views of with the community on the matter and how we can improve engagement. With a forthcoming White Paper on Local Government this is a major part of the Government's agenda at the moment.

On another note, the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission apart from Rod Scott's outburst was very constructive. Scrutiny is an opportunity to examine issues and certainly in the Labour party to make up you own mind on individual issues without being whipped (I have often disagreed with my Colleague Sheila Knight on issues). Many of the contributions were constructive (even from the Tories), especially Chris Edge and E Government (which I think is the future instead of reams of paper we get as councillor). With the issues that exist it also allows us to probe in depth and question decisions. Peter Southgate has taken over as Chair and did a very good job in what was the first Commission meeting of the new Council.

Cllr Rod Scott and the Merton Park Independents

I could not let tonight’s meeting go by (it was an Overview and Scrutiny Commission meeting) without reporting on the rant by Cllr Rod Scott (and he is one as well!) at a briefing before tonight’s Overview and Commission meeting. This was set up as informal meeting to take members through what was the first meeting of the Commission. Rod Scott who chairs the General Purposes Committee and is a substitute member on the Commission launched into a tirade against Cllr Peter Southgate who chairs the Commission and Merton Park independents on the Council. This related to the AGM and his comment was as follows “supporting Labour amendments at the AGM and whether this will continue to be the case in the Commission and whether some kind of pact exists as they failed to support the reasoned Tory council proposals at the AGM” (or the Tories ad hoc plans to abolish two forums which involve the public without any consultation). He seemed to be under the apprehension that we had a deal to vote together at the Commission (completely false). The performance of Rod Scott was embarrassing though from a Labour perspective very entertaining.

Clearly their failure to gain overall control has hurt Rod very badly, I know he spent the whole of election day in Longthornton ward (a wasted effort) where if they had gained only one seat it would have given them overall control, they only needed to overturn a 42 majority from 2002 they failed dismally in that endeavour with Labour's majority increasing to over 250 and a swing in our favour. Clearly it must hurt especially as Merton was the only target Borough the Tories failed to get overall control in London.

In terms of the Merton Park Independents, I have to say that they have always been impartial and have made up their minds on an issue-by-issue basis. They took a decision at the AGM to support a Tory minority administration but give the mayoralty to Labour (and with it the casting vote if they vote with us on any motion at Council). At all times Peter Southgate their leader and Merton Park Independents have played a balanced role, I may not necessarily agree with every decision they make but I respect their democratic mandate. In the last Council on many occasions they voted against the then Labour Council but they genuinely decided on each issue and came to a decision. At the AGM the situation was described accurately by Peter Southgate "as Labour lost but the Tories did not win".

Merton Park used to be a Tory ward until they lost a by election in 1989 to the Independents over a proposed relief road and with it their overall majority on the Council which they have failed to win back since. They went on to lose their two other seats at the 1990 Local Election. During the election the tories put round false information that we were planning to make a deal with the Merton Park Independents and that we had given Peter Southgate the Deputy Mayor to secure his support. Despite targeting the ward at every election since 1990, the Tories have always failed to re-gain the ward and it is a very sore point with many of them because if they had won here it would have given them carte blanche to do what they like, along with the overall majority they so desire.

In Merton, the Merton Park Independents do hold the balance of power and they could remove the Tory administration at the next Council meeting if they so wished (and Rod Scott as Chair of General Purposes would be one of them). This is very unlikely to happen (much as I would like it to) but you think if they had any political nous they would be cordial towards them. Sadly some Merton Tories think they have a God given right to rule with few checks and balances. While the election result was not to my liking, we have to make the best of the situation and result has left the balance of power with the Merton Park Independents, lets accept the situation and move on.

Spain smash 4 pass Ukraine

Well they were my outside tip for the World Cup and today they beat Ukraine 4-0, I bet the odds have dropped for Spain and it seems to have been a very comprehensive all round performance.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Cllr Geraldine Stanford - Mayor of Merton

Attended Geraldine Stanford's reception at Morden Hall tonight. Came near the end due to a Licensing Committee but many councillors in attendance and the event went very well. Geraldine will make a fantastic mayor and after sixteen years service on Merton Council deserves to become mayor. Geraldine is a very hard working and dedicated Councillor who will make a significant contribution to the Borough as the mayor. Can I also express my good luck to Cllr John Dehaney who will serve as her deputy over the next year.

With the Council being balanced the way it is and Geraldine holding the casting vote it will not be the easiest year to be Mayor but I am sure she will perform her role admirably over the next year.

Tory antics at Merton Council cabinet

Monday night was the first meeting of the Tory minority administration cabinet in Merton. Although another commitment prevented me from attending, the antics has started already and they have only been in power for less then five weeks.

1) Why can't we delegate full council powers to cabinet? (Cllr Sam George-Deputy Leader)

Not a surprising comment given that they do not have a majority in Council. In cabinet it is 100% Tory. In many instances powers are prescribed in legislation to full council. Like to see them bring proposals to Council if they have any sense they will not pursue this further.

2) Why is Section 106 money (planning gain money) from Wimbledon ending up in Mitcham (Cllr Margaret Brierly - Cabinet member for Adult Social Care and Health.)

Part of the false propaganda put round that section 106 money from Tory Wimbledon all ends up in Labour Mitcham. This is very much a divided borough but is a line that the Tories push in Wimbledon. Where's the evidence Margaret?

3) Affordable housing targets too high (Cllr David Williams - Leader)

With the prices in Wimbledon so sky high you would think it was too low, read between the lines we do not want people who may need help on the housing ladder buying places in Merton (or more likely Wimbledon) as they may not vote tory.. Many people my age have trouble getting on the housing ladder given the shortage of affordable places, affordable housing is crucial in London given the very high price of housing and Merton especially Wimbledon is one of the most expensive places to buy in London.

4) Can we afford all these children centres after the two years government funding for the scheme? (Cllr Sam George - Deputy Leader)

Again as it was a Labour government initiative it was not too popular with some of their members though subsequently contradicted by Cllr Debbie Shears (Cabinet member for Children Services) who arrived late for the agenda item and stated “that it was good for Merton children and that if we do not get the funding we would have to find it from somewhere"

Out of interest the Cabinet Member for Schools Oonagh Moulton pleaded complete ignorance of the issue (obviously she has not been doing her homework and for someone in her position she should know about this issue, detention??)

Comment from Tariq Ahmad suggested that the 8 children centres in the most deprived areas of Merton was a Government ploy and asked why we should trust Gordon Brown? Reading between the lines we do not like resources being put into the most deprived part of Merton (i.e. Mitcham)

The policy was passed in silence after the Debbie Shears comment which probably shows their actual commitment to children centres.

5) Education targets too high and not achievable (Cllr Oonagh Moulton -Cabinet Member for Schools)

Expectations are obviously low for Merton school kids. Still it will no be a worrry for some Tory councillors as they have long since opted out of the state system.

6) Journey to excellence ie a non-achievable objective and should be scraped. (Cllr David Williams - Leader)

Getting their excuses in nice and early under them it will soon be "Journey to mediocrity." Merton was a dramatically improving Council under Labour, low expectations and reducing targets are now the aim of the game under the Tories!

7) The new regime will move the performance management targets down until they are achieved. (Cllr David Williams - Leader)

As above but it shows that lower expectations is the new way forward under Merton Tories. Many are speculating about how long David Williams will last as Tory leader before he is deposed and who will be his replacement, judging by the performance at the first cabinet the odds must be dropping by the day.

8) The Municipal Waste Strategy report is a triumph of the Tory administration and shows the benefit of joined up strategy (Cllr Tariq Ahmad - Environment and Tory A list candidate)

Yes it is Tariq and the report referred to the past few months when Labour was in control. It has not been on the back of your thinking that is for sure.

Tariq is the only known Tory A list Merton councillor (and the only ethnic Merton Tory councillor), all the other Merton political wannabe’s failed to get on it (according to a blog that had all the names). To give him his due, he is in another league compared to some of his colleagues, some of them would have difficulty making the Z list let alone the A list.

Politics at the moment is not boring at all in 30 all Merton (in the land of SW19 it is a very fitting description), we should be in for a fun few months ahead and expect more interesting quotes/gaffes from the Tories soon.

Hope to hear the Tory responses soon as I know some of them do read this blog.

Charles Haughey

Given my Irish background(both parents Irish) and my considerable interest in the country, I could not let the passing of Charles Haughey one of its most famous Taoiseach (prime minister in English) since independence go without a mention.

While I would not necessarily agree with the politics of Charles Haughey or some of his more dubious financial dealings, he has to be given credit for helping to create the dynamic prosperous economy that exists in Ireland today. It is hard to believe now but the Irish economy was pretty much a basket case with the economy practically bankrupt with high unemployment, low growth and borrowing out of control and believe me that was situation up until the mid eighties. Charles Haughey in his term of office from 1987-92 saw the Irish economy emerge from this dark picture of a stagnating economy and set itself on a path of growth that has continued ever since.

In terms of political survival Haughey was a master, time and time again like Lazarus he came back from the brink. Many in his party Fianna Fail were sworn enemies from the start, but Charlie would know how to escape tricky situations and his opponents nearly always came off worse in any battle. When he became leader of Fianna Fail in 1979 nearly all of his cabinet colleagues were supporters of his opponents who was a sworn enemy of him, to win a leadership battle against this showed the skills he had in persuading people to back him and his considerable charisma and political skills.

Margaret Thatcher was also his great nemesis with various battles over Northern Ireland including Charles Haughey description of Northern Ireland as 'a failed political entity'. Charles Haughey was a great nationalist who did stand up to Thatcher and fought Ireland's corner hard. Reflecting back, it hard to believe now what an issue Northern Ireland actually was, being myself from a nationalist background and spending many Summer holidays on a farm right on the border showed how intense many people in Ireland felt about the situation. The background of the arms trial of the early seventies when Haughey had been accused of arms running (later acquitted) did not help the relationship, but this remember was in a country where many people felt aggrieved by the situation in Northern Ireland. Issues like the Hunger strike of 1981 brought out huge waves of support for the nationalist cause and mistrust in Thatcher which Haughey in many ways reflected the views of many people. Thankfully today the relationship is much changed and Northern Ireland as an issue has practically gone off the political radar which in know small part is due to the work of Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern.

Since leaving office, Charles Haughey record has been tarnished by the financial issues, it is quite clear that many of the issues discovered showed that various loans/bungs of a dubious nature had been made to Charles Haughey. Many of these matters were still the subject of ongoing investigation at the time of his death, though my knowledge of Irish politics is that many politicians in Ireland were up to no good(some still are) with various dubious deals being a part of the political process. If you thought sleaze exists in Britain you should see some of the stuff that was going on in Ireland, probity it was not and Haughey despite his accomplishments has contributed to this and this is what many people will remember him for.

His passing in a way his is the end of era, he was a huge figure in Irish politics and love him or hate him (and to many it was the latter), he did help create the Celtic tiger and despite his faults he laid the foundations for the modern Ireland of today.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Aussies leave it late!

At work, I am next door to an Australian Andrew, normally he has no interest in football but today it seems to have caught his interest as they were playing in the World Cup. After getting a message that he was in a meeting and wanted to know the score (the blackberry does not download the football off the BBC website) I sent him back a message saying the Aussies were one nil down. This remained the case until 84th minute when the Aussies equalised and went on to score two more for a 3-1 victory against Japan, this of course made Andrew a very happy Aussie(I call it a fluke!). While Australia are brilliant at most sports their football team never quite come up trumps, still their next opponents are Brazil and they will be much tougher opponents!

Senator Robert Byrd

Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia today becomes the longest serving US Senator in history. First elected in 1958, he has been in the US Senate ever since. Before becoming a senator he served as a member of the House of Representatives for six years thus he has served 53 years in congress. In terms of upholding the US Constitution and its values, Robert Byrd has been at the forefront and is a great historian about the US Senate and it's workings.

Robert Byrd is also someone who has learnt the lessons of the past, as a senator who tried to filibuster the 1964 Civil Right Act he has learnt the errors of his way and regrets his action. Recently he has been vociferous in his opposition to the Iraq War making some very powerful speeches against the War in the senate.

Now 88 he is standing for re-election this year in what will be a 9th term. Congratulations Senator Byrd on your service and for upholding democracy.

Another week same old transport problems

Train cancelled (Defective train excuse)

Next one delayed (congestion excuse)

Kings Cross underground station closed (Defective alarm excuse)

Another 15 minutes from Euston underground station

1 1/2 hour to get to work in this sweltering heat, not the best start to week

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Only a win needed to qualify for 2nd Round

Congratulations to 10 men Trinidad on holding Sweden tonight, a win on Thursday against Trinidad will see England qualify for 2nd Round, if Paraguay and Sweden draw we could even win the group on Thursday.

Glad we have the group we have, would hate to be in the group that contains Argentian, Ivory Coast, Holland and Serbia, that really is the group of death!

If we win the group we should have a realtively easy second round match and after Poland slipping up last night may be Ecuador though do not rule out Coata Rica following their good performance against the Germans last night. It is all to play for.

A winning start

England got off to a winning start to their World Cup campaign with a 1-0 win over Paraguay. The performance in the first half was impressive, but they had a very lacklustre second half. In most tournaments England tend not to have the best of starts indeed in the last twenty years on only one other occasion in the 98 World Cup have they one their first fixture. For the 11th consecutive World Cup match England failed to score in the second half, the last time they had a second half goal was in the opening fixture against Tunisia in 1998.

Forward problem is an issue, we have problems and Eriksson should have brought Defoe to the World Cup. Rooney needs to be return soon or we will have problems, Owen also does not seem that match fit now, which is also a concern. However, Beckham, Cole and Lampard played very will and Gerrard made a useful contribution. Ashley Cole needs to improve though, made some bad defensive errors in the game.

Still a long way to go and let us hope we see more success in Germany.

Friday, June 09, 2006

World Cup is here!

Well it is here at last, the greatest feast in the football calendar arrives again and I cannot wait. News is very good about Wayne Rooney and it seems that I was wrong in my prediction that he would not play in the world cup, is it a lucky omen for England?

First match against Paraguay tomorrow and hopefully they will get off to a flying start though England never seems to play their best in the first World Cup game.

Who is going to win?
Would love to say England but it will probably not happen. You cannot bet much against Brazil but I have a feeling that serial underperformers Spain may perform and are not bad odds at 16-1 and are worth a punt. They have a great team; it is just a question of performing. You can never rule out Germany especially on home soil but this team really is over the hill and success is unlikely.

UCU Launch

Went to the launch of UCU last night at the British Library, launch event went very well with over 250 in attendance. The venue was excellent and had a roof terrace which was very helpful as it was a warm summer night. Afterwards went to my colleague's Jenna leaving drinks at the Mabel Tavern nearby, the night went on till very late, went off to another pub and ended the night kipping in one of my work colleague's spare rooms. I can tell it was a very long night and I feel pretty knackered this morning.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Congratulations Liz on getting engaged

Congratulations go my cousin Liz in Ireland on getting engaged to Derek, I am delighted for both of you and this is great news. The next drink is on me!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

666, Is it a lucky omen?

Ok today is 666, as many of you will know in some parts of the world this is a bad omen or the Number of the Beast in Book of Revelation chapter 13, verses 17-18. The last time we had a date with all the sixes in was 1966 and of course we know that England went on to win the World Cup that year.

Could all the sixes actually be a lucky omen for England.

Answers to Damien please.

Garden Prmary School and Road Safety

Tonight I attended a meeting in my ward Pollards Hill about parking outside Garden Primary School. Recently this has been causing huge problems in terms of the safety of school children and potential accidents from people parking on zig zag lines. Along with the school, the police and local residents, we agreed an action plan on tackling the issue which will include talking to parents who park on the lines telling them of the dangers of their actions to school kids. The school is also going to increase publicity on school fences by running a competition amongst pupils to have a road safety poster. They are also likely to investigate further safer routes to schools including encouraging parents to walk. As somebody who used to walk to school when I was in Primary school (and it was nearly a mile away!) this is very welcoming, some parents drive their kids only a few hundred metres to school. I know many parents worry about the safety of their kids but the amount of problems that the school run causes is considerable when many of these journeys could be undertaken on foot.

I was also told that in the past some parents have been abusive about the matter when told by the school that their actions were dangerous, I found it quite shocking that some parents can be so irresponsible about these matters and put the safety of kids at jeopardy. Hopefully people will be more sensible about he matter.

I have also advised as a local council our parking team to keep a watch on the situation and take enforcement action against people who park on zig zig lines. At the meeting we also had two members of the School Council present from year 4 and year 6, it was great to hear them give their views on the matter and that the school actively engages with kids and asks for their views, I found this very welcoming.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Walk the Line and Keeping Mum

Watched Walk the Line on DVD last night, the bio pic about Johnny Cash. I have to admit to never really having listened to Johnny Cash music(though he was one of the most succesful recording acts of all time), but I have to say the film was fantastic especially his long love affair with June Carter who eventually agrees to be his wife when he proposes to her on stage at a concert in Canada. The film also shows Johnny Cash long battle against drink and drugs which at one stage leads to him going to prison and is responsible for the break up of his first marriage. I have to say it was one of the best films I have watched in ages, Reese Witherspoon deserved her best actress award in the Oscars for playing June Carter and Joaquin Phoenix played the part of Johnny Cash very well. I would recommend watching the film.

I also watched Keeping Mum starring Rowan Atkinson, Kirstin Thomas, Patrick Swayze and Maggie Smith, not the greatest film ever made but it has a few laughs along the way especially Maggie Smith who plays serial killer Grace Hawkins who it turns out in the film to be the mother of Gloria Goodfellow. Rowan Atkinson played the part of Rev Goodfellow well and had a few Mr Bean type performaces along the way, pefectly suited for the role.

Due to Grace being incarcerated for killing her first husband when she discovered he was having an affair (she dismembered the body), Gloria never knew who her mother actually as she had been taken away for her. In the film, Gloria and her daughter find out that she killed her lover Lance when he is discovered to be a dirty pervert, in the film Grace also manages to kill off a barking dog and his annoying owner. I felt the ending could have been better and felt they could have had more when it was announced that the lake was to be drained(where the bodies had been dumped). All in all though not too bad but not a touch on Walk the Line.

A relaxing way to end the weekend, though I had difficulty getting to sleep after watching two film in one night.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sandi hits number one!

Yes Sandi has reached number one with I Wish I was a Punk Rocker, delighted it has knocked Crazy by Gnarles Barkley down to number two. Best song of the year to date.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Crouch scores a hatrick as England win 6-0

Ok so I have to admit that until recently I thought he was a lousy player who was hopeless in front of goal but you have to hand it to him on his performance today against Jamaica. To score a hatrick even though he flunked a penalty (please do not take any more as we are bound to face a penalty shoot out in the World Cup) showed that he deserves to be in the eleven that faces Paraguay a week today. The dance also adds an element of fun to the game and I am sure we will see a few more of them come the World Cup.

A very good performance let us just hope it lasts for the World Cup.

The last few days and today

I have finally got round to updating the blog.

On June 1st I became an employee of UCU as the amalgamation between NATFHE and AUT came into effect. Nothing much has changed yet apart from new headed paper. At work the ongoing HE pay dispute is the main issue at the moment with still no resoulution in sight.

Spent last night at a party in Clapham, slightly hungover today but had a great time. Hearing cheesy tracks like Duran Duran from the eighties brought back many memories from school disco days, hard to believe it was over twenty years ago. Had various comments on the blog from others including Jeremy about editing postings. Yes, I know it is needed and editing various postings is one of my priority tasks for the weekend as many postings had been written on spur of the moment along with some I wrote very late at night.

Today sees the final World Cup warm match against Jamaica, should be an easy England win though they said the same thing when they played Northern Ireland and look what happened. The news about Wayne Rooney kicking a football is slightly more hopeful though I stand by my prediction made on this blog over a month ago that he will play no part in the World Cup, though for England's sake I hope I am proven wrong.

The Derby is also on later and have posted my tip, despite have lived most of my life quite close to Epsom I have only ever been to the Derby once and that was somewhere on the Downs which was free of charge.

Seems we are at last having a glorious June, should keep quiet all those work colleagues who only a few days ago wanted heaters at work. I hope it lasts????

Epsom Derby Tip!

Tip for the Derby, Championship Point

Will see later whether I have won or lost.