Archive for category Miscellaneous
Given the news that Wes Streeting has been selected as a parliamentary candidate for Labour in Ilford North, it’s time to update my list of political platforms NUS presidents stood on and the posts they have gone on to hold. Candidates prior to 1969 did not appear to stand as part of a formal organised grouping and none I can find had any further political career.
|Name||Years||Party/Platform at time of election||Subsequent political activity|
|Jack Straw||1969-71||Radial Student Alliance||Labour MP, Shadow Cabinet member, former Labour Foreign and Home Secretary.|
|Digby Jacks||1971-73||Broad Left/Communist Party of Great Britain||Former Labour councillor in the London Borough of Hounslow.|
|John Randall||1973-75||Independent||No connection to the Conservative MP of the same name, appears to have had an entirely non-political career since.|
|Charles Clarke||1975-77||Broad Left/Labour Students||Former Labour MP and Home Secretary.|
|Sue Slipman||1977-78||Broad Left/Communist Party of Great Britain||Joined the SDP and stood for parliament, but did not join the Liberal Democrats post-merger.|
|Trevor Phillips||1978-80||Broad Left/Non-aligned||Former Labour member of the London Assembly. Blair’s preferred Labour candidate for London Mayor in 1999.|
|David Aaronovitch||1980-82||Broad Left/Communist Party of Great Britain||Non-political career, became a journalist.|
|Neil Stewart||1982-84||Labour||Non-political career, as far as can be established.|
|Phil Woolas||1984-86||Labour||Former Labour MP and Immigration Minister.|
|Vicky Philips||1986-88||Labour||Non-political career, became a lawyer.|
|Maeve Sherlock||1988-90||Labour||Labour member of House of Lords. Special advisor to then-chancellor Gordon Brown.|
|Stephen Twigg||1990-92||Labour||Labour MP, former Minister of State.|
|Lorna Fitzsimons||1992-94||Labour||Former Labour MP|
|Jim Murphy||1994-96||Labour||Labour MP, former Cabinet Minister, current Shadow Cabinet member|
|Douglas Trainer||1996-98||Labour||Special adviser for the Labour Scottish Executive 2006-07|
|Andrew Pakes||1998-00||Labour||Former Labour Councillor and special advisor to Labour Deputy Mayor of London, Labour parliamentary candidate in 2010|
|Owain James||2000-02||Independent||Former Labour party employee|
|Mandy Telford||2002-04||Labour||Former Special Adviser to Labour MP Tessa Jowell, married to Labour MP John Woodcock.|
|Kat Fletcher||2004-06||Campaign for Free Education/Independent||Labour candidate in 2013 by-election for Islington Council.|
|Gemma Tumelty||2006-08||Independent||Labour Party employee, stood for selection as Labour parliamentary candidate.|
|Wes Streeting||2008-10||Labour||Labour Prospective parliamentary candidate in Ilford North.|
|Aaron Porter||2010-11||Independent||Labour party member and contributed to the book “What Next for Labour? Ideas for a new generation”.|
|Liam Burns||2011-13||Independent||Labour party member.|
|Toni Pearce||Current||Independent||Joined Labour only after being elected.|
Clearly the result of a poorly thought out clause rather than any deliberate attempt to ban the popular hot drinks, the following amendment (PDF link – page 15, New Clause 2) proposed to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill rather oversteps the mark. It appears those drafting the amendment did not realise that the scary sounding phrase “psychoactive drugs” includes caffeine.
To move the following Clause:—
‘(1) It is an offence for a person to supply, or offer to supply, a psychoactive
substance, including but not restricted to—
(a) a powder;
(b) a pill;
(c) a liquid; or
(d) a herbal substance with the appearance of cannabis
which he knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, to be so acting, that the substance is likely to be consumed by a person for the purpose of causing intoxication.
Maybe it’s an attempt to get back at Starbucks for tax dodging, because I’m pretty sure this amendment would put them, and many other similar chains, out of business…
David Cameron caused a fuss because he wants to cut the 2 hours a week of compulsory school PE, stating that Indian Dance is something “you and I probably wouldn’t think of as sport”.
It’s called PE. Physical Education – not “Sport”. This is the problem faced by the (And yes, I’m banging my usual drum here) male and pale crowd who probably did well in competitive sports at school – Boris Johnson and John Prescott also waded in on the side of school sport.
But ask on Twitter or elsewhere amongst the type of people in their 30s or older, particularly women, who engage in healthy physical activity and what to you find? Generally people who were put off by being pushed in the mud during school PE and regarded the whole thing as just an excuse for the bigger kids to have a go at the smaller ones. Many people, including myself, only rediscovered physical activity when they were older.
Despite being pretty fit (and I think being able to easily pass British Army fitness tests I can claim that easily) I simply do not like the kind of sports that are taught at school. I run, but I compete only against my own personal best. I climb and do Via Ferratas, but they are not competitive sports at my level. And I ride horses, which is rather more energetic than it sounds. Did you see any overweight riders winning medals in the equestrian events?
My kids are the same. They enjoy outdoor physical activities despite, not because of, school PE.
We need to continue to fund Physical Education at Schools, and make time for it but not on either David Cameron or Boris Johnson’s terms. Indian Dance is exactly the sort of thing we should be getting kids to do. Give people enough of a sampling of different activities that don’t involve having a ball kicked at their head and they’re more likely to find something they like and will carry on with in later life.
But please, not more “Sport”. I hated it, many others did too and we’re putting off the very people that need the most encouragement.
It has been suggested this morning (Telegraph) that NHS “no-show” patients should be charged a fee – basically a fine by another name.
Norman Lamb, a key adviser to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, told the Sunday Express: “We should consider introducing a charge for missed appointments.
“People have to understand when there is only a limited amount of money available it means cuts on care that could go on other patients.”
I’m surprised this has been suggested and I am most definitely against it, for two reasons.
Firstly is having heard stories about the historical (thankfully!) practice of Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic to discharge patients who failed to show up for two appointments. However – and this is the reason I’ve said “so-called” no-show patients – stories of appointment letters turning up after the appointment and people being discharged as a result were common. In some cases, letters simply did not turn up at all.
Some bits of the NHS have very good administration but in any organisation of this size, there will be areas where the paperwork is not of the same standard. It is dangerous to make a universal assumption that the NHS is functioning correctly and fine patients, probably already suffering from appointment confusion, if it is not.
Secondly, what should the fine be? £100? That’s an awful lot of money to someone on benefits who really needs the NHS and does not have the mental energy to spare appealing fines if the administration is messed up. It’s not a great deal of money to someone who is earning a decent wage and thus is not so dependent on the NHS. £20? That’s still a big blow to someone on the poverty line but just a meal out for the middle-classes.
What has also been suggested are SMS reminders for those patients who supply a mobile phone number, something that both my hairdresser and my dentist (And I suspect many other similar organisations) use. I would prefer rolling out this more positive, cooperative approach across the NHS first before we even consider the authoritarian penalty approach.
I’m mildly amused but mostly slightly irritated by those seeking to attack the decision by Waterstones not to use the apostrophe in their name any more. I’m annoyed mostly because of their reasoning – it’s really not that inconvenient, right?
My surname is O’Connell. In general, I don’t use the apostrophe when I enter my name on computer systems. It does not appear on my bank cards for example, because I asked them to take it off when I changed my name. It’s not on my blood donor card, because I did not put it on the forms when I signed up.
But some people will “helpfully” reinsert it if I leave it off. This leads to problems. Not just the Little Bobby Tables problem, but that’s bad enough when systems won’t let you enter it but still require an exact match on your name. More than once I’ve started at a company to find my email is “Zoe.O’Connell@company.com” which isn’t a valid address.
And you can forget personalised domains, because someone is bound to try zoeo’connell.com which also won’t work.
Fix the computers? I wish it was that easy but humans can’t handle it either. I’ve been stuck at the front gates of data centres or on the phone to some call centre more than once because they are typing “O-Connell”, “O,Connell” or even just Connell on the computer to search for me.
I’ve ranted about this before, back in 2009:
I’ve decided that I’m going to change my name to संसृति कुमारी. This is, as far as I can figure out, the closest you can get to “Life Maiden” (Zoe Imogen) in सम्भाषनसंस्कृत (Sanskrit). I shall write to everyone – banks etc. – and inform them of my name change. Of course, they’ll all write back and tell me that they’re very sorry, but their computer systems can’t handle सम्भाषनसंस्कृत letters.
To which there’s a simple reply – You can’t handle the stupid apostrophie in my surname as it is without breaking things, why would having it in Sanskrit make any difference?
So, until someone can fix the whole Internet and teach all humans everywhere to enter data properly, I’ll stick without it.
(As an aside, there is likely not even supposed to be an apostrophe in the name anyway. I’ve seen various explanations but it’s most likely simply an anglicisation that happened during the first censuses of Ireland to mean “of the Connell clan”, “son/daughter of Conall” etc.)
Today’s big news (Well, it had first billing on the radio this morning) is that women in the UK are fatter than anywhere else in Europe. Men don’t escape criticism either, being second “fattest”.
Whilst I don’t doubt health is important, I’m always wary of the numbers like this. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, the British Army regards me as both healthy and fit enough to serve on the front line, and I can comfortably pass all the fitness tests required.
But my BMI, 26.1, says I’m “overweight”. 18-25 is regarded as a healthy range, depending on who you ask, but I suspect I’d look like an unhealthy stick insect with a BMI of 18 and I’m almost certain I would struggle with fitness.
I do wonder how much of the media focus on BMI is due to a Daily-Mailesque obsession not with fitness and health in general, but with looking like a supermodel.
According to a study reported in Pink News, Bi women are more likely to get depressed. (They actually studied teenagers it seems.
This might explain why I’m feeling rather down at the moment, although I’m hoping it’s just Seasonal Affective Disorder (a.k.a. “It’s wet, cold, dark and depressing outside, isn’t it?”) and a stupid amount of money spent on some hopefully-not-snake-oil “daylight” lamp might fix it.
Alternatively, someone needs to produce some good Science Fiction TV for me to watch, or something nice and shiny for me to buy. (Or at least covet, if it’s expensive)
I never said I wasn’t shallow, did I?
I’m currently on a roll with near-future Science Fiction (Rule 34 currently graces my iPad Kindle app) with all it’s predictions of a capitalist, dystopian and advert-laden future. And I run across a blog post called 5 Terrifying Things Movies Don’t Tell You About Los Angeles. It’s number 5 entry bemoans the capitalist, dystopian advert-ladent present that is LA.
Billboard ads for gastric bands proclaiming “Dieting sucks!”? With a man who appears to be struggling with some sort of food-related being that’s attempting to stuff itself down his throat? Perhaps Ridley Scott just came forward in time three decades to modern Los Angeles before filming Blade Runner.
But I have a solution. Augmented reality glasses feature heavily in some modern Science Fiction, usually coupled with intrusive advertising being thrown through the cybersphere at the protagonist. We already have Augmented Reality apps of a sort on the iPhone, and seperately from this Ad-blocking technology is popular with some folk. (I use it myself on Firefox, because Flash hurts)
So, instead of glasses or a VR application on the iPhone that allow unscrupulous spammers to invade your reality with their sales pitch, how about a version with that blacks out locations of known billboards? You could even filter certain kinds of adverts perhaps. Or replace the adverts (And paper copies of the Daily Mail that accidentally come too close to you) with pictures of kittens.
Oddly, calorie counting seems to be the enemy of diet food companies.
Mcdonalds Double Sausage & Egg Muffin and Hash Brown = 690 calories.
Slimfast (Or similar) shake, meal replacement bar plus three snacks (Their recommended daily intake before dinner) = 725 calories.
If I have McDonalds, I feel full until dinner (I won’t have lunch) and have the energy to do a good 45 minutes of hard exercise around lunchtime. If I have Slimfast I’m left feeling hungry all day and may end up snacking, plus I’ll lack the energy and motivation to get any exercise.
I had McDonalds this morning. I am yet to find a drawback to this plan.
Back in 2009, Labour tried to mothball the Territorial Army in order to save just 20 million pounds. To put that in context, over 10% of the total regular and volunteer manning of the British Armed forces was threatened for a saving of around 0.05% of the total military budget.
The situation was dire, with military out of control and with a budget “black hole” of £36 billion. Even without a huge deficit to worry about, something had to be done – but the choice of cuts was bizarre and displayed a fundamental lack of understanding of how the military, and volunteer reservists in particular, worked.
Labour did a partial U-Turn, but the damage was done: training was reduced and people left, in part simply because there was nothing to do any more. This wasn’t the only event that got me active in politics: I’d previously written letters to MPs as long ago as the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill, (As it then was) but it was only a few months after this that I stopped being a “mere” leaflet deliverer and joined the Liberal Democrats, so defence is something I still keep a close eye on.
The government is dealing with the black hole by cutting £5 billion from the budget, with just over 20,000 posts going – less than the total size of the Territorial Army. No, it’s not great and not something I welcome. And of course there is discussion and criticism from those who still have some credibility left on the issue. I’d be amazed if that was not the case.
But it’s hardly surprising that given what happened in 2009 and a complete failure to control military spending, Labour haven’t been as loud as they could be in their condemnation of the cuts – they lack the credibility to do so. The shadow defence secretary has trotted out the usual “too far, too fast” rhetoric but with little substance, as usual, to back it up.