Great News On University Access (January 29th 2010)

January 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

The huge increase in young people from less well off backgrounds going to university shows Labour’s drive to extend opportunity is working. 

There’s been a 27 percent increase in students from disadvantaged areas going to university since 2005 alone. The long term trend of more girls than boys doing degrees has also started to narrow. 

Steve Smith, Exeter University Vice Chancellor and head of Universities UK described this as an “unalloyed success” and credited the extra investment in higher education and improved grant and bursary packages for less well off students. Increased investment and improved performance in the state school sector has also helped – giving more young people the confidence and necessary qualifications to get to university. Given the importance of education and, particularly, university education for social mobility, these results help Labour refute the charge that we haven’t worked hard to address inequality. 

Exeter’s Public Loos – LibDems All Over The Place Again (January 29th 2010)

January 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

The old adage “all politics is local” is coming back to haunt the Liberal Democrat leadership of Exeter City Council. Their plan to close the city’s best used public loos has provoked a storm of protest and a great campaign by the local paper, the Express and Echo. 

Lib Dems have made a hash of running Exeter since they took over from Labour 2 years ago. Until then Exeter was one of the best performing local authorities in the country. They have cut services and out up council tax, abandoned plans for a much needed new swimming pool, are making a mess of waste collection and, as is so often the case with Lib Dems, never seem to be able to agree among themselves. But it’s the “Battle of Exeterloos” – that could be the last straw. 

Tories Fiddle Crime Figures To Suit Their Story (January 29th 2010)

January 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

Three cheers for Mark Easton, the BBC’s Home Affairs Editor, for filleting the Tories’ claims about crime. Mark is a rarity among journalists today in that he cares about facts and accuracy.

He has subjected Conservative claims about crime rates used to support their “Broken Britain” campaign to proper scrutiny and has shown them to be fiddled.

 

While Cameron has claimed crime, including violent crime has gone up, it’s actually gone down, significantly, Mark points out.

 

It’s a shame there aren’t more journalists of Mark’s integrity and courage. Most appear to be afraid of upsetting the Tories by subjecting their claims and policies to proper scrutiny. Could that be that they are hoping for special treatment if the Tories win the election?

The Mirror’s James Lyons is another honorable exeption this collective cowardice.

He has built on Mark’s work today to show how the Tories have misled people on health, education and welfare figures too. 

Local News (January 25th 2010)

January 25, 2010 in Uncategorized

Anyone who believes quality local and regional news is important should be aware that the Tories have said they will pull the plug on regional news on ITV. 

They say they’ll just leave matters to the market. But no-one who knows the TV or news business thinks quality regional news can be delivered by the market alone. Neither do they believe that the Tory idea of US-style ultra local TV channels is either economically viable or would be of any quality. 

The Tories’ policy would leave the BBC with a monopoly, which would be bad for the BBC and for democracy. 

Beware Playing Politics with Tragedy (January 25th 2010)

January 25, 2010 in Uncategorized

The public will make their own judgement about politicians who play politics with a tragedy like the Edlington case.

The Edlington case is dreadful and there was clearly catastrophic failure by the agencies involved. But to claim the case shows Britain is “broken” or “morally bankrupt” is wrong and not supported by the evidence.

The overwhelming majority of children and youg people are not criminals or sadists and the vast majority of parents do a good job.

More Investment in Exeter (January 25th 2010)

January 25, 2010 in Uncategorized

The new construction skills academy at Exeter University will create 70 new apprenticeships and is a big boost to the city. 

It comes as figures showed a record 240.000 people starting apprenticeships last year, a 7 percent increase on 2008 in spite of the global downturn. 

It is vital that we continue to invest in skills and training, particularly through a downturn. It helps keep people in jobs and skills in the economy, reducing the impact of the recession, but it also means that when strong growth returns we’ll have the skills and trained employees to make the most of it. 

In previous recessions Governments have cut back on skills which have led to skills shortages and bottlenecks in the economy once the upturn comes. 

Nuffield Trust Report on the NHS (January 21st 2010)

January 21, 2010 in Uncategorized

Today’s independent report by Nuffield showing the NHS in England performing much better than in Scotland or Wales is a clear vindication for Labour’s health reforms in England. 

The figures are stark.

In spite of spending less per person on health in England results in every area are better. Waiting times in England are far shorter, English hospitals are far more efficient and access to GPs better.

This is because we’ve given power and choice to patients, had ambitious targets and effective performance management and set up a strong independent regulator to measure and publish hospital performance. 

The Conservatives, Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrats have opposed these policies. 

Airbrushed Dave vs Authentic Gordon? (January 21st 2010)

January 21, 2010 in Uncategorized

Even the Conservative supporting Daily Telegraph thinks the touched up pictures of David Cameron have been a disaster. 

The Tories themselves are worried, according to conservative columnist, Simon Heffer, that the public are sick of PR fakery.

This is another chance for Labour. No-one can acuse Gordon Brown of being airbrushed. A serious man for serious times. Authentic. Or even, “Not flash just Gordon”. 

Where have I heard that before

Self Defence (January 21st 2010)

January 21, 2010 in Uncategorized

How telling that the lawyer of Munir Hussain, jailed for an attack on a burglar but now freed by theAppeal Court in a sensible decision, says the existing law is right and strongly opposes Conservative proposals to relax the law on self defence. 

Under the current law, introduced by Labour, people are perfectly entitled to use “reasonable force” in self defence and the courts have generally interpreted this sensibly.

But in a knee-jerk response to the inititial sentence against Mr Hussain, the Conservatives said they would change the law to allow people to use violence unless it was “grossly disproportionate”. 

How on earth are juries or judges to decide was “grossly” means? The Tory plan would mean that it would be fine to use “very” or “highly” disproportionate violence. The release of Mr Hussain and the strong support of his lawyer for the law as it stands leaves the Tories’ headline grabbing posturing in tatters.

Exeter’s Met Office (January 21st 2010)

January 21, 2010 in Uncategorized

Recent criticisms of the Exeter based Met Office by the Conservatives and some of the media are unjustified. 

Forecasting weather is not an exact science. The longer the forecast ahead, the less reliable it will be. When dealing with snow it can be particularlu tricky, as a variation of a degree or so makes the difference between snow, sleet or rain. 

As a cyclist I follow the forecasts very carefully and have found the short term ones during the cold spell to have been pretty accurate. 

Long term ones are always given with a health warning – often not repeated by the media who report them. The Exeter Met office rivals the best in the world in its record and international reputation. It provides weather information for airlines across the world and does a vital job keeping our armed services safe in the field. It leads the world in climate change science. 

It’s a great asset to our city and we should celebrate not denigrate it.