Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A cruel blow at the end

Looked like Liverpool tonight we were set for a 1-0 success, and what happens? an own goal is scored with the last kick of the game. Football can provide some cruel blows and this unfortunately was one of them. Still, it's a long way from being over and I'm sure we can bounce back at the Bridge, though it will be difficult given Chelsea's record at home.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Gwyneth Dunwoody

Although she could be a battleaxe at times, and had very forthright views, Gwyneth Dunwoody was a great parliamentarian who was fiercly independent and a true champion of Parliament. Having recently become the longest serving women MP ever, she contributed a great deal to this country during her time in Parliament which stretched back to 1966.

The Labour Party also has a lot thank for MP's like Gwyneth Dunwoody, who helped move the party towards more commonsense policies, instead of election losing policies which was the hallmark of Labour back in the early eighties. If hadn't been for people like her, the Labour Party would never have recovered from the electoral disaster of 1983.

She was unique, and will be very sorely missed.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Liverpool pull it off again!

It looked it all over after the Adebayor goal; but like on so many other other occasions Liverpool came bouncing back to set up another re-match with Chelsea. It's night like these which makes up for for all the heartache and failures you have to endure as a football supporter. There is also something about European football that brings out the best in Liverpool, time and again we look down and out and we always seem to manage to come back from the brink. If we knock out Chelesea then it's on we go to Moscow - this may very well be another year of success in the Champions League and with El Niño Torres in such great form, anything's possible.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Mugabe clings on to power in Zimbabwe

What has been happening in Zimbabwe is greatly disturbing, a once great country has been reduced to a wreck through the policies of the despotic Robert Mugabe who uses every trick in the book to cling on to power.

When a country can barely feed its own population, where the economy has collapsed with the highest inflation in the world and 80% unemployment, the present situation has to change if the people are to be given any hope for the future. With the population collapsing and life expectancy now in the thirties, a country that was once of the most prosperous in Africa has collapsed into a shambolic state.

Of course, if any solution is to come, it needs to be from African countries and especially for the South African government of Thabo Mbeki. The have a clear duty to help bring to an end this regime given the mounting chaos and that as a country they're flooded with migrant fleeing Mugabe. The failure of the government of South Africa to speak out against this regime is nothing short of scandalous given that they could place influence on Zimbabwe and help bring to an end the regime of Robert Mugabe. Likewise, other African governments need to come together to condemn this despot. These governments have influence in a way that the British government will never have where it's seen as the former colonial power.

I hope that a peaceful solution is found and that an orderly transition takes places, I fear though that it will end in bloodshed as Mugabe takes ever more desperate measures to remain in power.

Steve Sinnott

The union movement lost a great figure with the sudden death of the NUT General Secretary, Steve Sinnott at the weekend. Steve was a great trade unionist who fought for teachers and for better pay and conditions in the sector. His loss is a great tragedy for the union movement, and for education in this country.

Olympic torch protests in London

The scene of protest throughout London today during the Olympic torch procession is not surprising or unexpected. While I condone the behaviour of some of the protester's, it shows the strength of feeling the existed and that as a democracy people have the right to protest freely. Unfortunately, these scenes will not be repeated in China, as any dissension will be stamped upon severely along with any freedom of expression and freedom to protest. The way the government systematically blocks western websites shows that are uninterested in allowing free and open access to information.

While the may be hosting the Olympics, the Chinese government have made little effort to open the country up and what has happened in Tibet of late, should disturb us all. The Olympics in China were for a wonderful opportunity for the country to reform its ways, but I fear that nothing has really changed and it's business as usual for the totalitarian regime that runs China. I don't believe that a boycott would solve anything as in the past they've made little difference and that countries from across the world should participate in the games. Thankfully with London, the host in 2012, we will be seeing a games held in a country where freedom of speech is allowed, we have a lot to be grateful for and as a democracy it's something we should value.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Boris Johnson lead down to two points

The latest ICM poll tonight is encouraging news for Ken given that lead for Boris Johnson only has a 2% lead, down from margins of 10% and 12% published by You Gov. This election is all to play for, it'll be extremely close but when the voters consider the issues they'll hopefully realise that Ken is the only option for London. Ken has achieved a great deal for London on transport, policing, affordable housing and in winning the Olympics which will do a great deal to regenerate East London. If elected again, I have no doubt that he'll do even more to improve this great city. All this is at risk under Boris, he may play the lovable buffoon but underneath it's the same old Tory with policies that will only benefit the few. He should not be underestimated, but if elected you can guarantee that the advances made under Ken will soon be reversed.

Liverpool draw against Arsenal

A very good result and sets Liverpool up nicely for the return leg next week at Anfield. Sadly I missed the match tonight due to the Council meeting, but I managed to get regular updates. The away goal will hopefully also prove crucial to our hopes, but the ball is in our court, now we have to finish off the job at Anfield.

Bertie Ahern resigns as Irish Taoiseach

Although he was not perfect and many question remain unanswered relating to his personal finances, Bertie Ahern's contribution to politics in Ireland has been significant and he'll leave behind many achievements. The main one has to be the Good Friday agreement in 1998 and peace in Northern Ireland, what has happened in past few years would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. His contribution along with Tony Blair was significant and very successful.

During his time in office, Ireland has enjoyed unrivalled prosperity. As a country it has turned from being a basket case economy to one of the most successful in the western world. Every time I go to Ireland, I see this changing society and as a country it has never had it so good. Though like the rest of the western world, the economy has slowed down recently and levels of personal debt are high.

Bertie was certainly a character, indeed his sheer charisma probably helped him win a third term last year. His departure from office will undoubtedly be overshadowed by recent events and investigations, but his impact on Ireland has been huge and his legacy is a changed Ireland.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Merton Council meeting

Another month and another Merton Council meeting.The main issue under discussion was post offices in the borough and the council passed a resolution opposing the closures. Regretfully, an amendment proposed by the Merton Park Residents' and seconded by the Labour group was narrowly defeated. This sought to remove the reference to all post office closures being opposed throughout London, and some inaccuracies in the Conservative motion (the Tories even amended their motion to correct some mistakes). While we agreed with most of their motion, some of the motion effectively committed Merton to opposing closures across the capital. While the case for post office closures in other boroughs may have a very good case, we don't know the full circumstances of those closures and as a borough we should be focusing first and foremost on Merton. Sadly, instead of trying to obtain a consensus motion, the Tories decided to play petty politics which makes little contribution to putting the case for Merton.

On the street scene (i.e. environment), we moved amendments on the Conservative motion (which praised the extra resources) despite nearly all the extra money coming for the capital budget. On the revenue budget, the Council has cut the amount spent on the street scene by £1 1/2 million this year. With capital spending for one year it more a case of short term solutions and long-term spending remains unclear. The package of cuts implemented by the Conservatives that relate to the street scene is likely to have an impact over the next year.

Another debate was on Mitcham town centre and the Tories failure to do anything over the last two years. Currently the plans are stalled and have been characterised by in-action from the Tories, the hopes of re-development have all but evaporated of late. Since coming to power, they've undertaken a consultation, which changed nothing but has managed to delay regeneration and the opportunities that would've arisen from the ASDA proposals. The council has been keen to boast a great deal about Eastifelds station which is opening in May (thanks in large part to Siobhain McDonagh). Whilst it will assist, it's not the key to solving all of Mitcham's issue, which the Tories have shown no sign of tackling.

The debate was also characterised by the Tories obsession with Siobhain Mc Donagh, indeed Tory Leader David Williams called her’ Auntie Siobhain' in a derogatry manner. It was a sign of their desperation, when they resort to these types of remarks, indeed Siobhain has done more for Mitcham then they'll ever do. If you asked the people of Mitcham their views on Siobhain, she would come out a great deal more popular then David Williams' Tories. Given the remarks by David Williams tonight, it exposed first hand his lack of understanding about Mitcham.

Andrew Judge to step down as Merton Labour group leader

Although I've known for a while, it was announced officially at the Merton council meeting tonight that Andrew Judge will be stepping down as leader of the the Labour group in May. On Monday, we elected Stephen Alambritis, the current deputy leader as his replacement.

Andrew has done a fantastic job as leader of the Labour group over the last seven years. He took over during very challenging times for Merton Council in 2001 and went on to win a fourth term for Labour in 2002. During his leadership, the performance of the council improved significantly and a number of significant projects were successfully undertaken; school re-organisation, the extra resources on the street scene and the introduction of Merton Link which significantly improved customer services within the council. The significant improvement that has taken place in Merton over the past few years is in no small part due to his work. He also came very close to bucking the trend at the 2006 local election when we lost the council by a whisker but were successful in holding all our council seats in Mitcham and Morden.

In Stephen, we've got a fantastic replacement who I'm sure will be an excellent replacement as Labour group leader. I have known Stephen for a number of years, and I know what a great ambassador he'll be for the Labour party and on Merton Council.