Twenty is plenty

16 May, 2008

According to The Times today the government wants to reduce road traffic accidents. Consequently it wants to introduce more 20mph zones as these are much safer than the present 30mph limit. The government is right to do this but it should take the argument and implementation further.

The government’s right to say that 20mph zones will save lives but they will also be more attractive places to live and if you bring the limit down further to 10mph parents will be much happier to let their kids play out. What may start out as a bid to improve road safety may end up being good for child social skills and health.

Introducing 20 mph limits for schools at the start and end of the school day has two major drawbacks. Firstly it assumes the only need for protection from motor transport is for small kids outside a school. The reality is that drivers tend not to be to discriminating in who or where they hit and the wider public also need protection.

Secondly changing the speed limit all the time confuses drivers and encourages them to break the law. What we should be aiming for is a standard national speed limit in residential areas of 20mph so we can develop a culture where people not cars come first. Where it is safe to walk and cycle and a pleasant environment to live in.

We shouldn’t just use speed cameras in order to enforce the speed limit but also social pressure. It should be as unacceptable to kill while speeding at the wheel as it is while drunk. If we can get this policy right then we can all benefit from a healthier and safer environment.

Parbury’s Picks

16 May, 2008

Dermot Finch is networking northern cities

Tom P supports Unite’s fair tips campaign

Foreign Policy sees warfare moving online

The Fix on the McCain Obama match up

Kevin Maguire dishes Guido’s dirt

Guilty guido

15 May, 2008

At least the verdict was right, pity the sentencing let the side down. Paul Staines likes to pretend he is a champion of the people but in reality he is a rightwing stooge and habitual criminal. A year in jail and a life time driving ban should have been the minimum sentence imposed for public safety and having him placed in stocks the minimum for public amusement. Tagging him is a joke.

Parbury’s Picks

15 May, 2008

Robert Reich peers into the mind of HRC

Peter Wheeler on the battle for Crewe and Nantwich

Arms Control Wonk finds a worrying lack of food in North Korea

Luke Akehurst with the scores on the NEC doors

Conor Ryan thinks Michael Gove should smarten up his act

Labourhome the results are in

Eurasianet on Azerbaijan’s oil bonanza. Remember it’s out of your wallet.

and finally the Watson clan is expanding again. Congratulation to Siobhan and Tom.

A plug for Compass

14 May, 2008

On Saturday 14 June 2008 at the Institute of Education in London Compass in association with Unite; The Guardian and New Statesman, will stage the biggest gathering of progressives post the 2008 elections to debate how we create a fairer more equal society in the 21st century over 35 organisations are running sessions with 1000 people in attendance, the biggest event of its kind

New speakers & sessions have been announced and the online agenda is now updated: get £2 off tickets when booking online @ http://www.compassonline.org.uk/conference

14/06/08 Born Free & Equal: make equality matter

1. Full speaker line-up now includes: Hon Ed Miliband MP; Neal Lawson; Prof Ruth Lister CBE; Derek Simpson; Jon Cruddas MP; Polly Toynbee; Jon Trickett MP; Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP; Baroness Helena Kennedy QC; John Harris; Beatrix Campbell; Prof Danny Dorling; Chuka Umunna; Katharine Rake; Melissa Benn; Dr Tom Smith; Dr Alex Scott; Hilary Wainwright; Kate Green; Deborah Littman; Graeme Cooke; Matthew Pennycook; Tony Benn; Mick Shaw; Christine Shawcroft; Richard Murphy; Doreen Massey; Ann Pettifor; Jonathan Rutherford; Andrew Harrop; Patrick Diamond; Mark Perryman; Sunder Katwala; Peter Kellner; Rachel Reeves; Aditya Chakraborrty; Prof Gus John; Christine Blower; Bobby Duffy; Lord Anthony Giddens; Seema Malhotra; Julie Bindel; Milena Buyum; Kate Hudson; Zrinka Bralo; Sukhvinder Stubbs; Naomi Luhde-Thompson; Phil Michaels; John McDonnell MP; John Hilary; Hugh Lanning; Yasmin Qureshi; Wes Streeting; Rupa Huq; Richard Weight; Paul Skidmore; Stephen Spratt; Sam Thompson; David Aaronovitch.

2. With sessions run by: The Fawcett Society; Searchlight; NUT; Socialist Health Association; The Fabian Society; Progress; Crisis; NUS; Campaign for Therapy; Demos; Liberty; UNISON; Unions Together; CPAG; Amnesty International; War on Want; IPPR; Fair Pay Network; nef; Migrants Rights Network; Barrow Cadbury Trust; Red Pepper; RENEWAL; Tribune; Friends of the Earth; Labour Briefing; LRC; Soundings; Age Concern England; Electoral Reform Society; Make Votes Count; CND; LGBT Labour; Unions 21; Unlock Democracy; Compass Youth; End Child Poverty.

3. Debating the big equality issues including: race equality; health inequalities; how the public services can deliver greater equality; would running on equality cost Labour the election?; how we make the case to middle Britain; housing; higher education; well-being for all; equality and young people; equal treatment for agency workers; gay rights; a bill of rights; tackling inequality in the economy; child poverty and the low tax elite; gender equality; fair pay; workplace democracy; progressive taxation; welfare; environmental rights; class equality; equality in later life; equality for the world’s poor and many more.

4. Register soon to guarantee your place: Come and get passionate about greater equality, debate how we create a new fairer and more equal society for the 21st century, at the political highlight of the summer taking place a month after the May elections, at a brand new venue, with new facilities including a modern air-conditioned 1000 seat auditorium.

5. Booking forms: have now been sent to Compass members; Fabian members; Red Pepper subscribers and available in the latest New Statesman (now out) and this week’s Tribune (out Friday), or email your name and address to info@compassonline.org.uk.

FOR NEW SPEAKERS, THE UP-TO-DATE AGENDA AND TO BOOK YOUR PLACE VISIT: WWW.COMPASSONLINE.ORG.UK/CONFERENCE

Parbury’s Picks

14 May, 2008

Foreign Policy the all you need to know guide to Abkhazia

Robert Reich just loves the credit card industry not

Copenhagenize visits Paris

Skipper sails full steam ahead at Guido

Tory Troll on why Boris should be locked up

Dave Moulton think positive and not just for Labour supporters

Kevin Maguire has a Brucie Bonus

The Future is ….

13 May, 2008

I know I exhorted discipline earlier but clearly people haven’t been paying attention so I thought what the hell I shall put up what I think are the odds on the next leader should the Prime Minister fall on his sword. It is important to state though I think a leadership election wont happen until after the next general election otherwise Jack Straw would be joint favourite in the Labour leadership odds betting.

The problem for  this lot and  reassurance for Brown is I think the polls have more to do with the economy than the leader so unless the economy improves significantly the next two years aren’t going to be the greatest bundle of run whoever is leader.

There is an optimistic scenario but this is looking increasingly optimistic and whatever their protestations actions speak louder than words when you have Labour MP’s standing down just as in the US Republican congressmen are fleeing for K Street

Anyway here goes…

David Miliband 2-1F

Harriet Harman 4-1

Alan Johnson 6-1

Jacqui Smith 7-1

James Purnell 8-1

Hilary Benn 9-1

John Denham 10-1

Andy Burnham 10-1

Jon Cruddas 12-1

Ed Balls 12-1

Ed Miliband 12-1

Yvette Cooper 12-1

Caroline Flint 14-1

Douglas Alexander 14-1

Tessa Jowell 18-1

Geoff Hoon 20-1

Hazel Blears 22-1

Alistair Darling 25-1

Jack Straw 30-1

John Hutton 30-1

Alan Milburn 30-1

Ruth Kelly 50-1

Peter Hain 75-1

Ken Livingstone 100-1

Charles Clarke 100-1

Des Browne 100-1

Sean Woodward 100-1

John McDonnell 200-1

John Reid 200-1

Frank Field 300-1

Anyway what do you think?

From the Compass email list

Bath and District Fabian Society

Dr John Payne

(Author of Stothert and Pitt: the rise and fall of a Bath firm)

Whatever happened to the workers at Stothert and Pitt, Bath?

A talk followed by open discussion

Tuesday May 13th

7:30 pm

Century House

Pierrepont Street, Bath

100 yards up the street from the Railway Station.

Parking at the nearby NCP car park or in adjacent streets

All welcome Donation of £3:00

Further details from twmthomas@hotmail.co.uk

In the media age in which we live any politician who has anything remotely interesting to say is liable to get labelled as “gaffe prone”. We then wonder why we have politicians who can speak forever without saying anything in a language which is usually some variant of Politicese.

The consequence of this is that any politician who can communicate with the voters is at a serious advantage in the political game. Tony Blair was a great, great communicator. I remember his speech to parliament arguing for the invasion of Iraq, I thought at the time and still do that the case was weak to say the least but I cannot in any way deny the manner in which he said it was anything other than magnificent.

I mentioned earlier Dawn Butler as a potential London mayoral candidate, check her out on the Daily Politics (available only for a week) . For a politician she speaks fluent Human like a native. expect to see her on the frontbench sooner rather than later.

Commons matters

12 May, 2008

According to the news this morning the Human fertilisation and embryology bill is going through the commons. I support this legislation because I think the research that it proposes to allow could be of great benefit to humanity. While I don’t agree that deaf parents should be allowed to make their children deaf as well. Also I think that allowing single women access to IVF is wrong. That is clearly not in the best interests of the child by any stretch of the imagination as ideally children should be raised by a two parent family even if in the real world it doesn’t always work out like that.

I also reject the argument that life begins at conception. The unborn foetous may have the potential of life but that is not the same as being alive after all it hasn’t been born. That is why we celebrate birthdays and not conception days. As you can see from the rest of the blogosphere on one side you have the pro lifers here, here, here and here and on the other pro scientists here, here, here, here. I suspect that they have as much chance of agree as the israelis  and the palestinians, actually it’s probably less than that but you get the idea.

Anyway the pro bill facebook group of which i’m a part has sent around an email asking people to send in the letter below to newspapers personally as the second reading is today I think this is a little late off the mark but worth sticking on the blog nonetheless

Dear Editor,

“It is hard to imagine a legislative package whose moral sweep and potential ethical consequences could be greater.”

Those are the words of the Spectator Magazine, writing about the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

MPs have begun debating whether to allow new lines of research into debilitating and deadly diseases. At the same time, they are considering whether lesbian couples should be entitled to fertility treatment. And, they will debate whether deaf couples undergoing fertility treatment should be allowed to prefer a similarly deaf child to a hearing child.

For those of us living here, the embryology bill might seem a strange thing to warrant our attention.

The reason it should: most of us in this area will die of a disease that the research is about.

It is strange that national media headlines are more often about crime and terrorism than they are about medical advances. If we want protection, we should be demanding protection from the things that are most likely to affect us. For children, it’s accidents. For those aged 18-30 it’s suicides. And for older people, it’s a wide range of diseases. Bombs simply don’t figure in the statistics.

It is vital for our society as a whole that there is widespread participation in such deep moral debates. That’s why I’m writing this letter. The bill is a perhaps rare beast – a thoroughly researched and well-prepared piece of government legislation.

MPs are being asked whether to allow doctors to take an egg cell from a cow, remove the main cow DNA, and replace it with human DNA. Human tissue would be produced from the mixed cell that might be helpful in treating diseases. It might be possible to grow a new liver, or introduce replacement brain cells to a sufferer of a degenerative brain disease. The cow egg cell is necessary because there is a shortage of human eggs, which are painful and difficult to extract. Other approaches to growing new human tissue are possible, but the mixed human/animal cell approach offers the potential to treat the widest range of conditions.

The government proposes to allow the research.

Opponents argue that putting human DNA inside a cow’s egg cell devalues human life and should not be allowed. Surely the opposite is true. To abandon promising new lines of research and leave the elderly suffering would be the greatest scandal of all.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is welcome.

Yours sincerely,