Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

February 4, 2011

Stripping the week 31st January to 4th February

Elvis has left the building. After months of speculation, a resignation, and two weeks in limbo, Andy Coulson finally left 10 Downing Street.  He will be replaced by the BBC’s Global News Editor Craig Oliver. Oliver was undoubtedly a surprise choice, with a leading right-wing journalist such as Guto Harri or Benedict Brogan always considered more likely appointments. Oliver has a big job ahead, shifting the coalition’s narrative away from cuts and towards positivity and growth. That debate continues to rage, with forests and libraries the lates focus of protests.

PMQS was a rather odd affair this week, with Cameron and Miliband actually having a civilised and worthwhile debate. Expect Punch and Judy to replace the two statesmen come 12pm this Wednesday though.

Crime was in the headlines too. Firstly, Home Secretary Theresa May announced the launch of online crime maps, which can show crime rates in any area in the UK. Except, unsurprisingly, the site crashed and nobody could see anything. The Ken Clarke’s restorative approach to justice got a ringing endorsement too, as the Sun had a pop at him over knife crime.

Transfer deadline day was Monday and, as the song goes, it was rather manic. The main stories involved Liverpool and Chelsea. With Luis Suarez on his way, Liverpool eventually let Torres go for £50 million, £35 million of which they promptly spent on 21-year-old Andy Carroll, who hasn’t even played 50 Premier League games. All in all a record-breaking £214 million was spent by Premier League clubs over the transfer window.

On the subject of splashing the cash, Deputy PM Nick Clegg announced £400 million worth of Government investment in mental health care. The move finally points mental health on the same level as physical health. While he was at it, Clegg put an additional £7.2 million into mental health care for army veterans, and scrapped the arcane rule whereby an MP who suffers mental illness can be removed from their seat.


Hero of the week: Nick Clegg for leading Government investment in mental health services

Villain of the week: The Sun – because VN doesn’t like people who call Ken Clarke ‘dodderry’


Reading this week: Total Politics Guide to Political Blogging 2010/11

Watching this week: John Nettles’ last appearance in Midsomer Murders.

Listening to this week: Fearne Cotton beating Zane Lowe on ‘versus’

February 4, 2011

Hilary Devey is announced as new Dragon

It has just been revealed that Hilary Devey will replace James Caan on the BBC’s Dragon’s Den. She is the founder of Pall-Ex, a pallet freight distribution firm that transports around 10,000 pallets a night. Turned down for a bank loan, she funded the start-up by selling her house and downsizing her car. It is good to see that the BBC have added another strong female voice to the panel. Devey will join Peter Jones, Theo Paphitis, Deborah Meaden, and Duncan Bannatyne on the entrepreneurial reality TV show.

VN will bring you details of the next series of Dragons Den as soon as it’s announced.

February 4, 2011

Library protests planned for tomorrow

Tomorrow will see libraries up and down the country stage protests, of various sorts, against the proposed closure of about 400 libraries. With events ranging from straight up protests to author readings, organisers are hoping to get hundreds of people to show their support for libraries.

The subject, as with so much of the cuts debate, has been highly emotive. Libraries though is a hard one to call. People have a very rose-tinted view of libraries, but very few people really them regularly. Part of the reason for this is that people can now buy books fairly cheaply on the high-street and online, and can get other information easily over the internet. Quite simply demand for the staple services of libraries have diminished significantly.

On the other hand, libraries can be a wonderful local resource. At their best they not only provide books and films, but a variety of courses and activities for communities, and act as a social hub. They can also give people access to technology like the internet or a computer that they may not have at home. Of course, libraries also act as a haven for many, providing a quiet space for reading, research or writing.

So it’s a tough one for the Government and local councils. Nostalgia vs pragmatism vs protecting the country’s poorest communities. Inevitably as time goes on libraries will become less and less relevant, as access to information becomes even easier. it is not like the Government are proposing the closure of every library in the land either. Without doubt some of the opposition is based on symbolism not practicalities, but the closures that do happen will have an effect on the communities in which they occur.

The Guardian have provided a full list of protests.

February 3, 2011

Sally Bercow “Done up like a kippur”

Despite her twitter protestations, something tells VN Mrs. Speaker knew just what would happen when she posed for this picture:

February 2, 2011

Michael Steele meets himself on the Daily Show

If further proof was required that UK viewers need to see John Stewart’s Daily Show everyday VN has it. Former RNC Chair Michael Steele met his now infamous puppet version live on air tonight! 

‘Cos that’s how we do it on the street, lunch meat:

February 2, 2011

Mental health is health

Today, two key Lib Dem figures in the coalition government have announced a major financial injection into mental health services in the UK. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who may have wondered how the Liberal Democrats would deal with this issue in government. One of Nick Clegg’s first speeches as Liberal Democrat Leader was on this subject.

Now Deputy Prime Minister, Clegg said of the decision:

“The evidence is clear: mental health needs to be addressed with the same urgency as physical health. We need to end the stigma attached to mental illness, to set an example by talking about the issue openly and candidly and ensure everyone can access the support and information they need.”

Even if it didn’t bring a penny back to the Treasury coffers, the £400 million investment would still be worth doing. However, it is calculated that this investment will actually save £700 million. Sufferers will require less in welfare, less care, and will be more able to work and contribute more tax. The previous Labour government also woefully ignored the mental injuries endured by returning troops, and so there was the additional announcement of a £7.2 million care package for veterans. This will fund a variety of things, from a 24-7 Combat Stress phone line, to specially trained councillors.

Mental illness is pretty common, 1 in 4 people will suffer from it at some point, and 1 in 100 people suffer from serious mental ill-health. However, it often gets ignored because you can’t always see the symptoms and, as Alistair Campbell pointed out, it’s not really a sexy issue. However, the Liberal Democrats have pushed the government in the right direction, and put mental health on the same level as physical health. A person’s physical and mental health are one in the same, not least because one often affects the other. Public moves like this will also help break the stigma and taboo around mental ill-health, as will Nick Clegg’s attempts to remove the outdated Parliamentary provision whereby an MP who become mentally ill can be removed. No such provision exists for physical health.

Mental health is health, and Liberal Democrats in the coalition have made that point loud and clear today.

February 2, 2011

New poll: Ed Miliband’s PMQs approach

February 1, 2011

Sunderland make signing of the transfer window, as David Miliband joins the club

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 29JAN10 - David Miliband, S...

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David Miliband has joined the board of Sunderland as a Vice Chairman, the club have announced. He is there to use his international links and profile to boost the clubs standing, and will be paid around £50,000 a year for the role. Sunderland Chairman Niall Quinn is delighted with his new signing:

“As a former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with worldwide knowledge and links, he can also help us become better known around the world as we look to grow and develop the club on an international stage.”

Miliband’s South Shield’s constituency is only eight miles from the club, so it is arguable that he is doing something relevant to his local community, although his loose ties to football are said to revolve around Arsenal.

Since losing the Labor leadership to his younger brother, Mr. Miliband seems to have taken his role as a constituency MP as an inconvenience to furthering his career. He did though manage to pop up in Parliament to give an impressive performance in the NHS debate. This further embarrassed his under pressure sibling, as many Labour MPs and members would rather David, not Ed, was leading the party. In recent months, David Miliband has submitted television programme ideas to the BBC, set up ‘The Office of David Miliband’ company, and will also take on a voluntary teach role in his old school in North London.

Perhaps the people of South Shield would prefer it if he just got on with his day job of representing them.

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February 1, 2011

Ofcom to look again at Digital Economy Act

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has asked Ofcom to look again at controversial recommendations to block access to filesharing sites, contained within last year’s Digital Economy Act. The move comes on the back of submissions to the  coalition’s Your Freedom website, asking for public thoughts on what policy they would like enacted or changed. Deputy PM Nick Clegg commented that: “Although reform of the Digital Economy Act did not form part of the Coalition Agreement, we have listened to the views expressed. The Government will look at whether we have the right tools for the job in addressing the problem of online copyright infringement.”

The Act, brought in right at the end of the last Labour Government, received much criticism for its approach to dealing with copyright, and it’s one size fits all approach to punishing offenders. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt says that he still has “no problem with the principle of blocking access to websites used exclusively for facilitating illegal downloading of content.  But it is not clear whether the site blocking provisions in the Act could work in practice so I have asked Ofcom to address this question.”

The review is very welcome. Many of the provisions in the Act were deeply illiberal, making Internet Service Providers (ISPs) the internet’s policeman, and could have resulted in families losing legitimate internet access. The introduction of the Bill in Parliament  has also faced legal challenge, and there will be a  judicial review of sections 3 to 18 of the Act in March. The Judicial Review has been brought by ISPs BT and Talk Talk, on the ground that the Act was not notified under the Technical Standards Directive, and failed to properly comply with other European legislation relating to eCommerce, data protection and privacy, and is disproportionate.

The issue of the Digital Economy Act has been raised at Liberal Democrat party conference and by various Liberal Democrat campaigners, including Cambridge MP Julian Huppert, and GLA list member Bridget Fox. The blocking measures still need more legislation to be enacted, and the continuing debate will certainly be seen as another example of the Liberal Democrats directly influencing government policy.

February 1, 2011

Andy Coulson leaves Number 10, but nobody notices

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21:  Andy Coulson, t...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

David Cameron’s Director of Communications has served his last day in Number 10. After his not so shock resignation a couple of weeks ago, Andy Coulson formally left the role yesterday. It seems Coulson’s last communications masterstroke was to make sure the press didn’t know of his departure, and to sneak out quietly. Not surprising from the man who left his house for work at 4.30am the other week just to avoid being seen by cameras.

Initially nobody except editor Paul Waugh seemed to have picked up on the fact that the man had left the building. This seems out of character of the British media, who have been hounding Coulson ever since he took on the role. It was always known that Coulson would remain in post for about a fortnight, but hack herds seem to have lost interest in the story, having claimed their victim.

Waugh also reports ‘good progress’ is being made on who will now take  on the role.  It does seem bizarre that Coulson has been allowed to leave with a replacement ensconced in Number 10, and Cameron’s first choice reportedly turned down the role. Seems like this is going to be a difficult gap fill, which is not very helpful for the Government when it is desperately trying to get its message across about the economy, and wide-ranging NHS reforms.

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