Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Obama makes it 10 in a row

The Obama juggernaut rolls on with comprehensive victories in Hawaii and Wisconsin. After the stalemate of Super Tuesday, it's clear that the momentum is now behind Barack Obama. While Hawaii is not a surprise given that he was born there, his success in Wisconsin is more significant given that it should've been a state that favoured Hillary Clinton. The nomination his now his for the taking given the lead he has now established and his success across many different states. Hillary should not however be written off quite yet and things can change very rapidly. Victories in Ohio and Texas by comprehensive margins would put her right back in the frame, but she does face an uphill battle. This could go down to the wire with a brokered convention which would have all the hallmarks of an absolute nightmare. The last chance saloon beckons through for Hillary. If she fails to win either Ohio or Texas we'll be set for Obama V Mc Cain in the race to be the 44th president.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

100 European wins at Anfield

Another amazing European night at Anfield and a 2-0 win against Inter Milan, the
100th European win at Anfield. After the disaster of last Saturday against Barnsley, Liverpool turned it around and given the trials and tribulations at the club of late it was a magnificent achivement given that Inter were last beaten in September. We have, yet again, proved our critics wrong and showed that we're made of sterner stuff. Hopefully now we'll get a result at the San Siro and use it as a stepping stone to the final in Moscow, we've got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Last post office in Pollards Hill set for closure

I was disappointed to hear today the post office in Sherwood Park Road in my ward Pollards Hill is set for closure. If it goes ahead it will leave no post office in my ward which has some of the highest levels of deprivation in Merton

These proposals will be fought as it will have a real impact on the local community and in area where services are already difficult to access along with many people not having access to bank accounts. Likewise, we have many elderly people along with a high number of people with young children where travelling long distances is not an option. The consultation period of just six weeks is also woefully inadequate given that Cabinet Office guidance is for 12 weeks.

I also have concerns that the criteria and distance criteria has not been met and will be looking at the proposals very carefully. Local communities need amenities like the Post Office and their loss will have widespread ramifications for the area. Along with my ward colleagues, we'll be campaigning against these proposals.

Fidel Castro bows out

With Fidel Castro formally bowing out as President of Cuba (or dictator of Cuba) it brings to an end an era stretching back to the fifties. Castro was the great survivor, around since before Kennedy became president and a thorn in the side of successive US Presidents’.

Having visited Cuba at the beginning of 2006, Fidel Castro was firmly in control though it was quite clear that his era was drawing to a close. During my time in Cuba, a massive demonstration took place along the Malecon leading up to the American Special Interest Section (i.e. the American Embassy but as they do not have diplomatic relations it's not an embassy) which was flashing pro-democracy messages. It was the biggest demonstration I'd ever seen and it was a wonderful and very colourful display even if the marching bands started playing at 3am in the morning (and woke me up as a consequence). It was addressed by Fidel himself who was still in full-flow with the rhetoric as strong as ever. Looking back, it was probably one of the last major demonstrations to be addressed by Fidel but from the chanting it was clear he was firmly in control.

My view of Cuba under Castro is that whilst it performs well in education and health, the infrastructure of the country is falling apart and economically it's in a state. By no means is it the poorest country in the world and in recent years Chavez has bankrolled the country, but it's quite clear that the revolution despite all the fervour has long run out of steam. Deep down many of the people want change though one thing they don’t want to see is becoming a puppet nation of the US like it was prior to the revolution.

Cuba seeks to blame many of it woes on the US embargo, whilst I think the embargo is unacceptable, many of the problems in the country are more deep-routed and its used as a convenient excuse. If the embargo was lifted tomorrow and I expect its days are numbered; the country will not change overnight and change will be gradual.

2009 will see the 50th anniversary of the revolution and it'll no doubt spark huge celebrations. Beyond that, the regimes days are probably numbered and I expect it will go down the democracy line though it may take the demise of Raul to happen. Cuba will change and new leaders will come to the fore and bring this country forward from its long stagnation. This is a fantastic country and hopefully it will see change in the not too distant future.

Atonement

I watched the film of Atonement on DVD tonight and it was one of the best films I've watched in a long-time. The story itself is gripping with main twists and turns along with an unexpected ending. The cinematography were outstanding especially the re-enactment of the Dunkirk evacuation. The transition of the character Bryony Tallis through three stages of her life (the three actresses that played her including Vanessa Redgrave were quite brilliant) along with her atonement for the dreadful mistake she made in the first place was gripping. Definitely recommended to watch, it's not the most straightforward film but it’s certainly deserving of an Oscar.

Al-Fayed and Diana

The inquest into Diana's death is becoming more of a farce by the day. Although it's great for filling up column inches in the tabloids and providing even great riches for the many lawyers' engaged on this inquest, it has effectively descended into a farce with today's completely absurd allegations by Al-Fayed along with Paul Burrell seemingly having admitted to committing perjury.

Whatever one may think about the Royal Family, do they really think that Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Tony Blair and members of her family conspired with the security service to kill her off? No evidence exists whatsoever exists to back this absurd claim up.

This inquest is a total waste of money and the verdict is inevitable. The death of Diana happened over 10 years ago, it's in the past, it’s time to move on and close the book on this tragic incident. No doubt it will be labelled 'a conspiracy' by Al-Fayed, I sympathise with him on the loss of his son Dodi, but what has subsequently happened is a complete failure by him to accept that fact that the driver of the car was drunk and was one of the main contributors to Diana’s death.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Northern Rock nationalisation

Contrary to what the Tories may say, this is not a return to the past or a sudden thrust of socialism from the Government; it is in fact reflecting the reality of the situation faced by the government in making a decision that was necessary. Despite valiant efforts by the Government to find a buyer, nationalisation is like to best protect taxpayers' money. What happened in the case of Northern Rock was mismanagement by the company on a grand scale coupled with the financial crisis that had engulfed the US mortgage market.

This should hopefully be a temporary solution and provide the necessary stability for the Northern Rock to be a viable bank again. Yes, shareholders' will have lost out in terms of the share value but the alternatives could have been far worse and if the bank had collapsed it would've had widespread ramifications for the whole financial market and the UK banking sector. This option was effectively the only one that was viable.

In terms of Gideon Osborne and David Cameron, the option of administration would have been a disastrous option with little chance of recouping any of the taxpayers' money. They also seem to have developed very few alternatives in dealing with the Northern Rock, with the policy like their general economic policy changing on a daily basis. If the Government had gone down the like they were advocating, instability would have been the likely outcome along with thousands of job losses with widespread economic repercussions.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The West Wing

Having turned 33 on Thursday, one of the presents I got was the complete box set of The West Wing. This was in response to a recent confession that I made to friends that I'd never watched an episode of The West Wing. I just never got the time. Sounds remarkable - but it's true and as someone who follows American politics avidly, I'll no doubt be addicted very quickly. With some luck, I’ll hopefully have watched them all by the time I turn 34.

Cup disaster for pool

Crashing out against Barnsley at home! What a disaster and a humilation. To lose against a side that have players who have cost a fraction of Liverpool's and a team that are in League One is an appalling result and the players' should be ashamed of themselves for such a woeful performance. For Barnsley, the romance of the cup continues.

I hope that we'll redeem ourselves against Inter in the Champions League though it will be a very tough fixture, otherwise it will be a battle for 4th place. The season started with such high hopes and looks like being another damp squib. All the recent comings and goings hasn't helped and the current instability at the Liverpool has clearly had impact on the club.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Councillor allowances increase abandoned

At the Merton Council meeting on Wednesday night, the Tories withdrew plans to increase councillor allowances by up to 28%. The council did however agree to introduce a Dependent Carers' allowance and Subsistence Allowance. The meeting also agreed a resolution to bring the issue back next year; Labour councillors who argued that the scheme should be extended till 2010 and after the next council election opposed this. At long last this debate has reached a conclusion after many hours spent on the issue.

Stalemate after Super Tuesday

After Super Tuesday, it seems we're no nearer a winner in the Democrat race. Effectively it was a score draw; with both Barack and Hillary enjoying success in almost equal spoils. From the delegate totals, they've also come out neck and neck though with the super-delegates Hillary has an overall lead of about 100. The next month now sees a number of contests before the next big date on March 4th when Texas and Ohio votes. If Hillary can win in Ohio and Texas she'll be very hard to beat.

Overall, the odds would still have to favour Hillary despite the success of Barack Obama. Her main worry at the moment is cash as she only raised $13 million in January against $32 million for Barack, she has also put in $5 million of her own money. The race continues to be very volatile and many more chapters are likely to be written on this on-going saga, indeed we might not know the nominee until the convention in Denver which takes place at the end of August.

In terms of the Republicans, McCain cemented his place as the front-runner but with the strong showing of Mike Huckabee in the south it's not all over quite yet.

Mayor-elect of the London Borough of Merton

Although I've known for a while that I was to be nominated as mayor for the 2008-9 municipal year, I was tonight confirmed as the mayor-elect of the London Borough of Merton and I'll become mayor on May 14th if it's confirmed at the Council AGM. With Merton being the political complexion it is (30 Con, 27 Lab, 3 Merton Park Residents), the nomination was confirmed on the casting vote of the current mayor John Dehaney.

I am of course delighted to have the opportunity of being mayor of Merton next year and having the opportunity to serve the borough. Having been born in this borough and a councillor for the past six years, it will also be a great honour and a privilege to take up this role. Over my mayoral year, I hope to get round to all parts of the borough and hopefully meet many community groups who contribute so much to the borough. The role will also involve representing the borough at a number of events throughout the year. During the year I'll also have the opportunity to raise funds for my chosen charity.

Being mayor will bring with it sacrifices - politics will take a secondary role for the year as neutrality is essential and a pre-requisite of the position. My role as mayor is to represent the borough first and foremost. Throughout the year I'll continue to blog, but it will be primarily about my role as Mayor of Merton and my activities, hopefully I'll also start to add photos to the blog. The year ahead promises to be an exciting year and I can't wait.

In terms of the Deputy Mayor, Cllr Krysia Williams of the Merton Park Residents' will be taking up the position. Krysia I know will make a fantastic Deputy Mayor and will be a great ambassador for the borough.