Northernheckler's Blog

A Yorkshireman's adventures in the big Smoke

Recipe for Hemicrania Continua

Around six years ago, my wife started getting excruciating headaches for no apparent reason.

Bromo-Seltzer advertisement for headache medic...

Unfortunately Bromo Seltzer didn't manage to quite get my wife into a ta ra ra boom de ay frame of mind

They seemed to be non-stop, and whatever she took for them, they never disappeared completely.

Six years later they still haven’t disappeared, and my wife, now out of work, disabled, and almost always in pain because of a condition diagnosed as Hemicrania Continua, is due to be admitted for surgery on Wednesday of this week, in a bid to alleviate her difficulties.

I’m hoping to blog about this over the next few days and weeks to let people know how she gets on, how our family gets on, and to bring her disabling condition – Hemicrania Continua – to the attention of a wider audience – that they may understand it more thoroughly, and hopefully help society become better disposed towards helping people who have it.

So what is Hemicrania Continua ?

Well the dry medical definition is that Hemicrania – or HC – is a rare form of “primary headache” – that is a headache for which no cause can be found – it is that it is. (and if that sounds as if it doesn’t make much sense then do please tell my wife about it !). It’s related to other forms of primary headache conditions such as Cluster Headache – CH . Cluster Headache is usually several extremely severe headaches coming rapidly one after another in a very short time. Although attacks can be very frequent, or perhaps not so frequent, there are periods of respite in between.  Hemicrania is a usually a left sided constant bi-lateral headache – it’s down one side of the head only and may vary in intensity, but is usually ever present. It’s a disabling condition, many sufferers have to give up their jobs, and medication used to treat it can cause a large number of side-effects – some of them very unpleasant.

I could – and will – tell you more about HC  later – but for the time being I’ll leave you with this recipe for Hemicrania Continua from Liz – a Hemicrania Continua sufferer who posts on the Ouch website – Ouch is the Organisation for the Understanding of Cluster Headache – and acts as an umbrella group for all rare headache conditions. Please do visit their site.

Here’s the recipe :

Recipe for Hemicrania Continua

Take some labour pain – increase the strength a little

Add: a burning sensation
a strong feeling of weakness
nausea
some vomiting
sensitivity to light and sound
blocked nose on affected side
blurred vision
slurred speech
drooped and watery eye on affected side

Stir well

Now pull the pain through the corner of your left eye until it goes right through your head so you can feel the pain of it coming out the other side.

Send stabs of strong sharp pain through the top of your head from time to time.

Boil well for at least 72 hours

Simmer for 12-24 hours

Boil again for 12-24 hours

Simmer again for a few hours

Boil again for 12 hours

Repeat this for the rest of your life occasionally swapping sides.

Oh by the way, I forgot to say, while you are doing this you must cook, clean and shop for yourself and go out to work.

Does that sound like fun ?  No ? That’s right, it’s not !

Please check back here to see how my wife and our family get on.

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June 27, 2011 Posted by | Disability, Election 2010, Family, Uncategorized, women | , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Calm down dear, or why I don’t like PMQs

Angela Eagle

Angela Eagle MP

To say I’m interested in politics is something of an understatement, yet I’m not someone who necessarily enjoys some of the more high profile political rituals we have.

Prime Minister’s Questions for example.

It drives me up the wall. Petty point scoring on both sides which leaves key issues completely unexplored, and commentators saying who “won” and who “lost”

To me that’s not politics. True political debates takes more than a few soundbites and glib put-downs to make an argument, and the strength of an argument, lies in just that – the strength of the argument – and not the smart arsed manner in which a party leader can make a joke at his or her opposite number’s expense.

Yesterday was a case in point.

I jumped in my car hurriedly trying to find somewhere to buy a sandwich for lunch before heading back to work. Along the way I chanced to hear on BBC 5 Live, a fair bit of Prime Minister’s Questions. On this occasion it was Ed Milliband‘s turn to have David Cameron on the ropes, belligerently grilling him on lack of economic growth, and rising hospital waiting times – among other issuess. To which David Cameron responds, by resorting to the time honoured tactic of not answering the question about the particular statistic he has been questioned about, but picking another more sympathetic statistic to present so that he can claim that the leader of the opposition is talking rubbish.

It irritates me. In a sensible discussion all of the different indicators could be discussed in an adult manner which attempted to shed some light on the issues at hand. Instead there are merely attempts to embarrass each other – which in David Cameron’s case are increasingly turning into opportunities to act like a smug condescending upper class former public schoolboy. Which I fear is what he actually is.

This was very apparent in the ‘headline’ incident of the session – when the Prime Minister told Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Angela Eagle, to “Calm down dear”.

I could scarcely believe what I was hearing, the ill mannered smugness and contempt with which he delivered this put down came across very unpleasantly indeed. He realised straight away what he’d said, and tried to pretend he’d been talking to Ed Balls – on the radio it seemed is if he could well have been – but on television it’s clear that he was not : David Cameron tells MP Angela Eagle: ‘Calm down, dear’ .

To me the remark was evidence of his deluded sense of superiority to the opposition members, and to female members in particular, and to women and people who do not share his priveleged upper class male background. It casts him in the role of the all knowing father speaking down to a naughty child. It’s a rude and obnoxious way to respond to an opponent, and if you’re asking whether it’s sexist, my answer is – of course it is !

Another reason why I don’t like PMQ’s

There are more reasons though – the follow up to this incident was all too predictable – the inevitable phone-ins on the radio – Was he being sexist ?, or can’t the Labour MPs take a joke ? The predictable comments – it’s PC gone mad ! etc etc ad nauseam.

On the BBC’s own website, comments seemed to give the impression that Ms Eagle got what she deserved since she had had the temerity to interrupt the PM : ‘Calm down dear’ Conservatives accused of sexism

and then today in the Guardian we have the former MP, and current GP Howard Stoate, who Mr Cameron was discussing at the time, weighing in with his claim that he was misrepresented Calm down, David Cameron – and get your facts right at PMQs and that “The prime minister distorted my views. He should stop using the health service as a political football”  – An article which has quickly been linked around the twittersphere to allow we Labour types to thumb our noses at the Tories.

In true PMQ fashion though we get scant dissection of the meat of the issues involved.

Mr Cameron chose to highlight Mr Stoate by referring to comments he had made earlier which he claimed supported the Tory plans to involve GP’s more in the commissioning and running of NHS provision. In his statement he said that Mr Stoate had ceased to be an MP because he had been defeated by a Tory candidate. Angela Eagle’s interjection was simply to state that this was blatantly untrue. He was NOT defeated in any election – he stood down as an MP – which in the context of the Prime Minister’s statement, was highly misleading. The Prime Minister knew why she was interjecting, he knew that she was telling the truth – but refused to correct the “error” – if that’s what it was, instead telling her to “Calm down dear”.

Mr Stoate for his part, seems unperturbed by the assertion that he was defeated – but more so by his feeling that the Prime Minister said that he had become a GP after he stood down. It’s very debatable whether the PM said this – certainly it’s not what I took from his statement, I think most people assumed that he’d been a GP all along. Which is the case.

Mr Stoate also is annoyed that he’s been misrepresented by the Prime Minister. Well that would fit the tabloid cycle of claim and counter-claim very well. Tit for Tat as it were. Except, read the article ! :

GPs do not fear the chance to reshape NHS services, they welcome it

As far as I can see Howard Stoate is saying precisely what the Prime Minister said, and it does make exactly the point that the Prime Minister wished to highlight.

Of course if  Howard Stoate had been defeated in the election as David Cameron said, than Labour could claim that this was in part due to his maverick ideas. He wasn’t though – which you’d think would work in David Cameron’s favour.

All in all, a fairly unsavoury and ultimately pointless crock of the proverbial.

So what is the point of PMQs ?

I’d like to see a political procedure which gives our politicians the chance to prove that they’re NOT pompous, ill mannered and sexist, rather than a routine event to reinforce the idea that they are

April 28, 2011 Posted by | Election 2010, news, politics, women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I’ve voted David Miliband for Labour Leader

David Miliband for Labour Leader

David Miliband giving the Keir Hardie Lecture

There are many factors that influence voters in any election. A party leadership election is a particularly interesting one in that respect.

Why ? Well I feel it’s because a party leader really has two very different jobs – one is to “lead” the party, to steer it in a particular direction, to get the various different forces within the party to pull together so that the resultant force is in the direction which the leader, and the party as a whole want to go.

The second job however is to get the party into government. This means appealing not just to members, or regular voters of a party, but also to those who may not support the party. For an opposition party this is particularly important – without the support of a few more people who voted otherwise at the last election, the party will stay in opposition.

So in considering who to vote for I’ve tried to ask myself : Can I see this person as a leader of the Labour Party, and secondly : Can I see this person as Prime Minister ?

This is what I came up with :

First of all I think the field of candidates is a remarkably strong one – if I have a disappointment it is that there are no more female candidates – I think it’s high time Labour had a woman as leader. If they don’t choose to run though, then that’s their choice. I think Harriet Harman has done remarkably well standing in, in the interim however. I’d have been pleased to have seen Yvette Cooper running as well.

Which leads me nicely to Diane Abbott – I like Diane – she has personality to spare, a strongly evident sense of humour, and is not afraid to be outspoken. I could just about see her as Labour leader – I couldn’t see her as Prime Minister though – the massed ranks of the Tory media would have her for Breakfast, Dinner & Tea (or should that be Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner)  – and I think she’s be a very vulnerable target for those wishing to make the Labour Party look foolish. Which is a shame – I still think she has a great deal to offer as a politician.

With Andy Burnham the trouble I’ve had is that I’ve almost had to look him up on Wikipedia to find out much about him. I’ve received less information about him during the campaign than any of the others, and it’s been frankly very low-key – I’d find it difficult to identify a picture of him. An invisible leader will not win any elections, so although I’ve no reason to doubt his ability as a politician, neither do I have much positive evidence either, My guess is that the wider non-Labour electorate would say “Andy who ?” – so sorry Andy, you don’t get my vote either.

Which leaves my top three – the two Miliband brothers and Ed Balls.

I could certainly see any of these three as a Labour leader. I could certainly see any one of them ultimately as a Prime Minister. Whatever the eventual result of the leadership election, I won’t have any worries about belonging to a party led by any of these three – they are able politicians, conducting strong campaigns, and I feel that they all have the potential to bring the public around to supporting the Labour party.

So how do I choose my 1, 2, 3 ?

Well my first instinct was to go for Ed Balls. Ed is someone who has responded to letters from a local MP regarding concerns I’d raised regarding my school, on two separate occasions, with sensible and timely advice. He has read my blog on a number of occasions, and has exchanged e-mails and twitter messages. I’ve met him at the House of Commons, and found him to be very impressive. On a personal level then, this makes him a good choice for me – I’ve not met either of the Milibands, and had no interaction with them up to now.

So it was looking like Ed Balls for 1st choice to me – but how did I choose between the other two ?

It quickly became apparent that the Miliband brothers were the two front-runners in this race. Obvious too, that commentators and some supporters were trying to cast David in the role of the “New Labour” candidate, carrying the torch of the Tony Blair legacy, while Ed supposedly represented a return to “core” Labour values – to win back the votes of disillusioned left-wing voters, who had deserted the party after the commencement of the Iraq war.

For myself, I can’t really believe that any of the candidates will be definable primarily along those lines – I really don’t think that there are massive differences in approach, between these three – but that this Right side / Left side argument which is flying through the online community, is trying to stir this up in order to tribalise the leadership contest.

I blogged on this here some days ago Can we stop fighting amongst ourselves please ? « Northernheckler’s Blog

At the time it was tempting me away from the Miliband brothers who seemed to be the axis of the sudden burst of in-fighting – which led me more towards Ed Balls.

The next day I had a campaign e-mail from the David Miliband campaign : David Miliband Campaign e-mail

I liked what I read. It was almost as if he’d read my blog. Or at least was expressing exactly the same sentiments as I was.

Over the next couple of days, Tony Blair appeared increasingly on the news in relation to his new book. I lost count of the number of negative comments about him – these from supposed Labour supporters – comparing him with Margaret Thatcher, calling him a war criminal, saying he was the worst leader Labour had ever had. Many of them as well linking him directly to David Miliband.

Well actually I rather liked Tony Blair. Rather respected him too – he took principled, if controversial decisions about Iraq, which had huge popular support, as well as a substantial parliamentary majority. He achieved a lasting peace in Northern Ireland, and led Labour to an unprecedented three terms in office.

But I’m not a Blairite. Or a Brownite – I’m a left of centre Labour member and voter. Blair and Brown are gone. New Labour isn’t new anymore. Old Labour is similarly in the past.

I re-read David Miliband’s email. It seemed to sum up everything I was thinking.

And so I voted :

1. David Miliband

2. Ed Balls

3. Ed Miliband

I didn’t indicate a 4th and 5th choice – as I don’t think the other two candidates are Prime Ministerial material,

So a close run thing which has in the end been decided by my negative interpretation of Labour supporters slagging off other candidates and tribalising different factions within the party, and ultimately I’ve been tipped over the edge by a single e-mail. So I’d like to say “Sorry Ed !” to my 2 and 3 selections.

If you find my reasoning quirky or illogical, you could well be right – but that’s how I came to my decision.

I look forward to reading other bloggers’ accounts of how they made up their minds

September 7, 2010 Posted by | blogs, Election 2010, politics | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Mandate ? what mandate ?

I write this still in the strange spaced out daze that comes from doing two ‘stay-up-all-night’ sessions in one week. So I apologise in advance for typing errors, and make no apologies for not cross linking and evidencing everything I write.

David Cameron tells us that Gordon Brown & the Labour party have lost their mandate to Govern, and seems to believe he is now ordained as the next prime minister.

Leaving aside the fact that when he made his comments there were barely a handful of results in, and most of them had fallen to Labour, he is of course right. The mandate to govern – in the normal run of things – comes from having an overall majority – enough seats to outvote all of the other parties put together. Gordon Brown does not have that.

David Cameron’s Conservatives have more votes, and more seats – so can claim a certain amount of legitimacy in saying that they have a moral right to form the next Government. Problem is though that they don’t have a mandate either. In fact its clear that there are more people who voted against the Tories than for them, and more members of parliament who are not Tories than are.

So it becomes time to do a deal. Well to all left leaning political thinkers, the obvious deal is between Labour & the Lib-Dems – they share many ideals – and in particular there is a clear advantage in that for many in both parties it would be an opportunity to once and for all change the way in which Governments are elected, and ensure that a scenario such as today’s does not happen again. So Lib-Lab it is then.

Except David Cameron and the Murdoch empire think that would just be that nasty old Gordon Brown hanging on to power by any means they can – and it would just be so wrong. So instead of Lib-Lab, instead we get Con-Dem – and it already has been condemned by many, who can not imagine that the Lib-Dems and Conservatives have anything much at all in common. Except that this is really as things stand the only combination of parties that will deliver sufficient numbers for a majority – always assuming that none of the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats jump ship to another party.

But one way or another it would seem that one of these two options is likely to become reality.

I think both of these solutions are utter stupidity.

If our politicians wanted to transform British politics they would agree to form a government along these lines :

  • not a two party coalition, but a three party Government of National Unity.
  • Gordon Brown to step down – We love you Gordo, but your time has come – it’s clear that the public have not embraced your leadership – resign !
  • David Cameron, well in the eyes of the public he has credibility, having gained the most number of seats, but in his own party’s eyes – you’ve failed Mr C. you’ve blown an ‘unassailable’ lead – Stand down and move on.
  • Nick Clegg – well it could be argued that he’d messed up big style as well – certainly his party must be the most disappointed at their results, but actually I’d say no – Make Mr Clegg Prime Minister
  • Next form an interim cabinet to select the longer term cabinet – each party to select 3 members who will have one week to thrash out the key posts – and to share the key posts between the parties.
  • The Government then takes office – running a programme of legislation and Government agreed by the new Cabinet – with the whip removed from all members – they are always allowed a free vote.
  • The Parliament will sit for a fixed term of 18 months. In the Autumn the parties will select their leaders if necessary, at party conference
  • At Christmas or thereabouts we hold a referendum on different modes of electoral system
  • An election is called at the end of the fixed term, and is held according to the new rules.

So we get stability, decisiveness, power sharing, a mandate to Govern, and an end to the disillusionment with political parties, and a brand new system of electing our parliaments.

A bit far fetched ? Naive even ?

Well maybe it is – but I’d prefer to use words like “radical” or “progressive” – because if British politicians are ever going to win back the trust and confidence of the electorate then they need to do something radical and progressive now – and stop sulking and doing deals to try and prop up the old political systems.

First past the post is designed for a two party system – as is our parliamentary system – yet in most constituencies yesterday we had 4, 5, or more candidates – First past the post doesn’t work – it distorts the picture of the vote, effectively disenfranchises voters for non-incumbent parties in safe seats, favours established parties, and throws up ridiculously stupid hung parliaments where the smallest group of members, effectively holds the other two to ransom. It has to go

I think it’s fair to say that I don’t think my proposal will be implemented

May 7, 2010 Posted by | Election 2010, politics | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Can we win it ? Yes we can !

If you read the press and internet media at the moment you might be fooled into thinking that Labour haven’t got much of a prayer in Thursday’s election.This BBC report  BBC News – Election 2010: Party leaders step up campaigning shows the papers lining up behind the Tories for the most part , and for a change a few – notably the Guardian backing the Lib-Dems. Only the Mirror remains loyal to Labour. The more openly pro-Tory outlets –  notably the Telegraph now crowing about the probability of David Cameron being PM come Thursday and smugly touting his divine right to be just that David Cameron: born to be prime minister – Telegraph

So I say – don’t you believe it. There’s never been much press support for Labour – and what there has has been largely done in order to gain readers – notably in the Sun. The Guardian has been more Labour friendly – but certainly no sycophant campaigner for the party, and I am sure will continue to print articles both supportive and critical of broadly left wing politics (including the Lib-Dems) – I won’t be boycotting it any more than I’ll be stopping talking to friends who vote differently to the way I do – they’re entitled to their opinion.

The real danger from the media to Labour though would appear to be led by Rupert Murdoch (apparently in concert with other news outlets) who now appear to be openly campaigning, rather than making any pretext of reporting balanced news.

There’ll be some who believe it – maybe they’ll go and vote Conservative.

There’ll also be many who, like me, will simply switch off their ears and eyes to their barrage of attacks on the Labour Party. To paraphrase the words of Alistair Campbell said last week – I don’t give a damn about your polls or biased reporting.

Let’s have quick look though at one of the things that does get reported a great deal : Opinion Polls

According to UK Polling Report the latest opinion polls over the last few days show the Tories’ lead over Labour to be variously 7% ,7%, 9% ,6% ,7% ,12%, 8% , 7%, 10%, 5%,6%

Such bad, bad news for Labour – It must be true I read it in the Daily Mail.

So what can I do ?

I could whinge on about reliability and comparing like with like and sample size, and misleading margins of error – blah, blah.

Or I could do what Sky news want me to and get all depressed about them and give up the will to support Labour

Or … I could look back to  my post All to fight for in the General Election « Northernheckler’s Blog on the 24th of January when Labour supporters were virtually dancing in the streets after a supposedly “rogue” poll gave the Conservatives a lead of only 9%.

Well clearly Labour is polling a lot better than that in most polls now.

Throw in to the bargain the reported rise in Lib Dem popularity – the Tory lead over them in the above polls is as low as 2% in some – which may or may not benefit Labour or Conservative, but certainly makes everything that little bit less predictable.

And lets not forget either the video I embedded in that post of Neil Kinnock appearing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on the eve of the 92 election, which even John Major thought he’d lost (He won ! )

So I ask myself  “Can we win this election for Labour ?” – and just looking at the difference between January and now, my answer has to be :

“Yes we can !”


May 3, 2010 Posted by | Election 2010, politics | , , , , | 2 Comments

Gordon Brown’s email to Labour Members

For those of you who are not Labour Party members, but are interested in what Gordon Brown said to us all, here is his email from earlier this afternoon :

As you may know, I have apologised to Mrs Duffy for remarks I made in the back of the car after meeting her on the campaign trail in Rochdale today. I would also like to apologise to you.

I know how hard you all work to fight for me and the Labour Party, and to ensure we get our case over to the public. So when the mistake I made today has so dominated the news, doubtless with some impact on your own campaigning activities, I want you to know I doubly appreciate the efforts you make.

Many of you know me personally. You know I have strengths as well as weaknesses. We all do. You also know that sometimes we say and do things we regret. I profoundly regret what I said this morning.

I am under no illusions as to how much scorn some in the media will want to heap upon me in the days ahead.

But you, like I, know what is at stake in the days ahead and so we must redouble our campaigning efforts to stop Britain returning to a Tory Party that would do so much damage to our economy, our society and our schools and NHS, not least in places like Rochdale.

The worst thing about today is the hurt I caused to Mrs Duffy, the kind of person I came into politics to serve. It is those people I will have in my mind as I look ahead to the rest of the campaign.

You will have seen me in one context on the TV today. I hope tomorrow you see once more someone not just proud to be your leader, but also someone who understands the economic challenges we face, how to meet them, and how that improves the lives of ordinary families all around Britain.

Regards,

Gordon

April 28, 2010 Posted by | Election 2010, politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poll position

Seems that the latest opinion polls are the next big thing in the election campaign.

I’m not so sure if I’m honest, We’ve seen a lot of widely different ‘exit polls’ after the “Leaders debate” – seemingly working every permutation of who came in 1st, 2nd or 3rd using apparently the same data source (You ! , the public !), and polls which have been published incorrectly then retracted and “nationalised” based on local samples. And the Mail on Sunday now seem to using someone called  BPIX to do their polls – who ever they are.

It does make me wonder whether they’re going round getting lots of different polls done and just publishing the ones which make most impact. Certainly Sky News seemed to run about 4 different versions of their after debate poll on Thursday night, presumably because the real results didn’t say what they wanted.

Despite this though, I’m  not dismissive of them. If these were favouring Gordon Brown rather than Nick Clegg, I’d be tweeting from the rooftops with the rest of the Labour twibe. So let’s take them at face value – even if they aren’t necessarily all that reliable.

The most sensational of these polls seems to place the Lib Dems as front runners in first place, with Labour in 3rd. As various commentators have pointed out (and sorry for the lack of links tonight – I don’t have the time !) – this could lead to the bizarre situation where Labour ended up as the largest party in parliament, with the fewest number of actual votes; and perhaps the Lib Dems with the fewest seats, and the largest share of the votes.

Will this be the turning point where the Lib Dems finally come of electoral age and seize power ? Or will it be (as Iain Dale has said on his blog) – David Cameron’s Wobbly weekend ?

Well I’m not sure – but I will say this – These polls would certainly appear to have woken the public up, and all of the parties. Last year when we had the Euro elections, the polls looked bad for Labour – not much better for the Lib Dems, and we had a frustratingly predictable low turnout bad news election.

The political geeks (like me)  have done their best to liven things up since then – there’ve been better polls for Labour, and lots of games with posters and stuff. Still – until last week – none of it was really catching the wider public interest.

But now it is. Now we’ll see who can run an election campaign.

The polls don’t show what WILL happen. They show that anything CAN happen.

The turnout at the last election was 61.5 % – imagine if just half of the remaining 38.5% decided to vote this time round.

Anything really COULD happen.

So what I’m taking from these polls is this : It really is  #GameOn !


UPDATE : Just came across this blog on the Sky polling after the ‘Leadership Debate’ – it’s a beauty. Respect to Loveandgarbage ! : Leadership debate – pie in the Sky

April 17, 2010 Posted by | Election 2010, news, politics, twitter | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Truth takes a pounding after Leaders Debate

This headline from the Telegraph was quite widely trailed on Twitter today : Pound falls after Nick Clegg’s election debate success

Now admit it – looking at that, I’ll bet you thought that the currency markets had gone into free-fall, worried at the prospect of a Lib-Dem dominated hung parliament.

There might be the odd one of you that thought, hey Nick’s a nice guy, but if it’s going to send the City into turmoil, then I’ll stick with the Tories.

Well that’s just what the Telegraph wanted you to think.

Have a scout around and you’ll find that Nick Clegg’s apparent triumph (and actually I did think he came off best), and any fall in the value of the pound are in fact totally unrelated incidents.

How can I be so sure ?

Well mainly because the pound hasn’t nose-dived through the floor. Hasn’t lost all that much ground. In fact it’s been on an upward trend against the dollar since approximately the 25th March. Today’s fall of around 0.6% (representing less than 1 cent against the dollar, doesn’t really affect that trend. BBC NEWS | Business | Market Data | Currencies | Sterling GBP v US Dollar USD and in fact, at the time the Telegraph report was being read on-line by millions this afternoon, the pound was actually increasing in value against the Euro – although it finished the day slightly lower.

So all in all it’s been a relatively uneventful day for the pound – and whether it had gone up or down, it would have been nothing to do with Nick Clegg, Gordon Brown, or David Cameron.

Remember that the world doesn’t really revolve around financial traders, and never forget that democracy will always be far more important than a good day’s profit in the City.

So to the general public I say – Ignore the Telegraph’s silly scare stories – and vote for the candidate you think will do the best job.

And to the Telegraph, could I suggest you change your headline to “Millwall Crash against Huddersfield, after Cameron fails in Leaders debate” – it has after all got exactly the same cause and effect relationship as your original article, and a little bit more truth about it.

Town goalscorer Peter Clarke (Picture is the Telegraph's)

Town goalscorer Peter Clarke (Picture is the Telegraph's)

April 16, 2010 Posted by | economy, Election 2010, Football, politics | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cameron : We’re even worse than Bulgaria !

Regular readers of my blog might have spotted a vaguely familiar statement from David Cameron in last night’s Leaders Debate on ITV television.

In my post Things that bug me – Part 2 on April 2nd, I moaned about the misleading reporting in the Daily Mail England’s poor cancer detection and bad diet mean Slovenian women live longer of the Government report ‘Health Profile of England 2009’ DoH Health Profile of England

I complained amongst other thing’s of the Mail’s tendency to pick an Eastern European country at random for us to be “worse than” – in what appeared to be an attempt to capitalise on racism against Eastern Europeans for sensational effect.

It seems David Cameron must have appreciated it – last night he chose not Slovenia but Bulgaria to compare our “oh so terrible” health care with.

While there would seem to be some evidence from WHO that his statement was in essence correct – that there are more deaths from cancer in Bulgaria per head than in the UK at least according to the Sofia news agency  Bulgaria Pops Up in UK Historic Debate – Sofia News Agency ; the Department of Health’s own published data (ie. the document linked to above)  – which is produced in close consultation with other countries, would appear to suggest otherwise.

Check out the table 3.1 on page 61 – it quite clearly shows that UK & English cancer deaths have a lower incidence than in Bulgaria. That’s not to say that we’re ideal though – David Cameron could have said we were worse than Ireland or Italy – or better than Denmark or Spain. Whichever country he chose to compare us with would have been misleading though – because on page 49 we have a chart that tells us that “there has been a steady decline in the mortality rate [from cancer] between 2000 and 2008. It is evident that the mortality rate has decreased faster for males in recent years than for females”.

So irrespective of whether we are or are not “worse than” Bulgaria, the number of deaths from cancer, has been reducing steadily during the incumbency of the present Labour government.

So Labour’s record is unarguably better than the Conservatives’  in relation to deaths from Cancer.

If I might conjure up a phrase from the recent past : “Don’t you dare lecture us on Cancer Mr Cameron !”

April 16, 2010 Posted by | blogs, Election 2010, politics | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Leaders Debate

Well I watched some of it (although missed start because I was collecting Labour leaflets to deliver) (and if you think I’ve ever done that before you are seriously mistaken)

I’m not going to do blow by blow, I found it hard enough to keep my attention throughout. Why ?

Well because I enjoy politics, I find it interesting – the nuances, the similarities, the differences, the tactics, the different means to the same ends, the same means to different ends – but a programme of this nature boils it down to a talent show – and as we all know in the UK talent shows throw up some bizarre results – witness the Jedward & Subo phenomena if you need any more evidence.

Actually it’s probably closer to the mark to compare it with a Harry Hill TV Burp style decider : “I like David Cameron, but I like Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg as well – but which is best ? There’s only one way to find out – FIIIGHHT !!”

There is no room for subtleties in a debate of this kind – and OK I freely admit that this makes it more attractive to people who aren’t as fired up by politics as I am (and never forget that however uninterested they are, all of their votes count just as much) – so it puts me off.

The first question I caught was about “Immigration”. Clearly they all thought that this is an issue that they’re likely to get a tough time on, so all three did their best to be “tough”. OK – but I’d have liked to have found out how it makes it  any easier to recruit decent trained teachers in London – but I accept that there’s no way that could have been discussed tonight.

Similarly when we got to “Education” we didn’t get anything I was interested in – but promises of how Headteachers were going to be helped to be “tough” – David Cameron giving his anecdotes (which by the way, if we’re going with the X Factor theme, were about as deep and meaningful as dedicating his performance to his poor old Mum who died last year, and it was her life ambition to hear him sing Whitney Houston on telly) related the story of a pupil excluded from school then reinstated on appeal. The Tories will take away the right of appeal.

Well there could have been a fair old discussion about that – A person’s whole career possibly being decided without a right of appeal on the say so of one headteacher ? And what about the appeals of those parents with children with special educational needs, that all parties want to support in their battles with schools and local authorities – don’t they count either ? At what stage does a misbehaving pupil become a disabled one ? and wouldn’t it be convenient to treat them the same anyway – save a lot of hassle, and keep the results and attendance looking good. We don’t get any of that though, no questions about where excluded pupils go once they’ve been kicked out (because believe me it starts getting expense when they’ve been kicked out of few).  No discussion either of how a headteacher could have such a poor relationship with his Governing body that she ends up in a situation like that.

To be fair to the party leaders, there’s no way they had the chance to reach that high level of debate.

So I’m disappointed, but I knew I would be. Sorry I can’t give you any more insight than that.

If I were to venture a few observations though :

  • Gordon Brown looked relaxed, if fumbling his lighter notes a little – certainly far more convincing than just a few months back.
  • Nick Clegg looked nervous – but I’d venture suitably nervous – he’d be stupid if he didn’t – came across strongly as I expected – but then he has so little chance of being elected that he can promise whatever he wants with no real fear of having to deliver
  • David Cameron was weaker than I expected. I feel he is easily the strongest weapon in the Tory arsenal, and I was surprised at how he faltered, and how he fell back on arrogant repetition of things like “death tax”, and trying to convince people that the National Insurance rise would take money OUT of the treasury – I felt he’d been briefed too heavily by advisors – would be better to follow his instincts.
  • I was disappointed neither Clegg or Brown homed in on Daniel Hannan’s comments about the NHS and questioned whether Cameron has the authority and bottle to properly slap him down – at present we have the official line being that the Tories will increase spending on NHS whilst other prominent Tories want to abolish it. Kick them out if you can Dave !
  • Surprised at the ITV poll showing David Cameron so far behind – although I expected Nick Clegg to be ahead – not that it matters – the effect that it has on general polls (and ultimately the election) will be the telling statistic.
  • Truly impressed by the traffic on Twitter during this – must have broken all records – not sure what election night will be like. I gained 8 followers during the show !

Any way I’m off to bed now to get ready to deliver Labour leaflets tomorrow. I’m still voting Labour

April 15, 2010 Posted by | Election 2010, politics, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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