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Q: How do you sit on 2 different seats which are 300 miles apart at the same time?

Leeds Central Liberal Democrat candidate (and superwoman?) Emma Spriggs

Leeds Central Liberal Democrat candidate (and superwoman?) Emma Spriggs

The Leeds Central Liberal Democrat candidate, Emma Spriggs, might be some kind of superwoman…

Emma Spriggs is not only campaigning to be your MP in Leeds Central, but she is simultaneously campaigning to be a councillor in Bucklebury, Reading. That’s over 300 miles away. The train from Reading to Leeds takes just under 4 hours, plus it takes another 30 minutes to get the bus to Beeston & Holbeck where I live. There is nothing illegal in standing for an MP and council post at the same time, but how is this feasible?

The Lib Dem Central Office confirmed this is true, and indeed you can see it’s the same Emma Spriggs by comparing the home address on the Berkshire Council website (page 2 of the pdf) and Emma’s page on the Liberal Democrat site.

The Lib Dem Central Office even has a standard line for callers with this question. I know this because I rang them twice and two different people gave me the same answer. They say it is “not unusual” and give the example of Boris Johnson who is the current London Mayor and is also standing for election as MP on 7th May in the Tory safe-seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip. But Boris Johnson is not running simultaneous campaigns – he is already the Mayor. When I pointed this out the Lib Dem Central Office admitted it was not a fair comparison. They were unable to give an example of another MP running simultaneous campaigns many miles apart. Incidentally, while Boris Johnson claims he will be both MP and London Mayor until 2016 when his tenure as Mayor ends, David Lammy says this would be a conflict of interest and leave him as a lame-duck Mayor.

So what are Emma Spriggs’ chances?

Bucklebury is a Tory safe-seat in J R R Tolkein country – the kind of place Bilbo Baggins lived. The Duchess of Cambridge’s family have a home there, and Chris Tarrant lives there too. Tories Graham Pask and Quentin Webb are standing for re-election, and I guess they’ll win again, with Emma taking the place of one of the losing Lib Dems (Benjamin Morgan, Philippa Harper) in the 2010 election.

Leeds Central is a very safe Labour seat, but the Lib Dems came closest in 2010 with 21% to Labour’s 49%. Yes, everyone expects the Lib Dems to take a bashing because of the Coalition, but isn’t the best way to deal with that to come out fighting with a dedicated campaign in Leeds Central?

The Lib Dem Central Office didn’t want to speculate on how Emma would deliver two campaigns simultaneously, instead pointing me to Emma herself or the Leeds Lib Dems. Emma has not responded on two different email addresses, and the Leeds Lib Dems say they only really look after North East Leeds and don’t know much about Leeds Central. They suggested I ring Emma, but they have no number for her, and there isn’t one on her profile, so they suggested I try the Yorkshire & Humber Lib Dems – but they don’t have a telephone number, and frankly, I think I’ve done enough.

So come on Emma, tell us what your priority is – Leeds Central MP or Bucklebury councillor? What are the top 3 issues in the area that you want to tackle? There is a serious question here of whether the Lib Dems are throwing the Leeds Central election – potential Lib Dem voters (of which there were 7,789 in 2010) really need to know if that’s the case.

Historic Abuse in Children’s Homes – The Management Context by Wally Harbert

cathy fox blog on child abuse

Wally Harbert writes from his  personal experiences about the wider context in which child abuse was allowed to happen in the Social Services Sector. This is valuable not only so that we can understand how child abuse was allowed to happen, but also so that we can learn from this and prevent child abuse occurring in the future from the same reasons- IF we learn the lessons from the past.

This is even more valuable because it is available for the public to read and also for free, not stuck in academia or a report that needs to be paid for and thus the readership is limited. If we are to learn the lessons of the past, people must be able to access information to hold authorities to account. The sooner Wally and other knowledgeable professionals are able to give evidence to child sexual abuse inquiries, the better. An inquiry…

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Je ne sais pas

We naturally want to make sense of horrible events as quickly as possible, but despite a clear narrative from politicians and the media there are lots of things I’m uncertain about at the end of today. One of the few questions I am sure about is whether there is any justification for the murdering, hostage-taking and spreading of fear in Paris today. The answer to that is, without a doubt, no.

Outside of that question lies a lot of uncertainty. I can’t read French and so I can only understand the Charlie Hebdo magazine covers on a very basic level. Yes, I think freedom of speech is important, but how does Charlie Hebdo taking the piss out of all religions in their ‘dumb and nasty’ style help anyone? Je ne sais pas. It’s being referred to as satire – is it like Private Eye? I understand Private Eye – it’s written in English (the one language I’m proficient in) and I’ve read enough copies to know that they do proper investigations into areas the mainstream press often won’t, that they uncover a lot of failings and wrong-doing by people in power, and that they’ve been sued countless times for trying to tell the truth. Is that what Charlie Hebdo does? Je ne sais pas. Or are Charlie Hebdo more like Richard Dawkins than Private Eye? Je ne sais pas.

When I saw the footage of a group of young Muslim people living in poverty on the outskirts of Paris saying ‘we were offended by the Hebdo covers but we would never want to kill someone because of that’ I thought, why is this magazine offending some of the poorest, most disenfranchised people in France – what does that achieve? Je ne sais pas. What recourse do those young Muslims have to lampoon the middle class liberals lampooning their God? Je ne sais pas.

All the talk is of intelligence failings and freedom of speech – we need to snoop more, read more emails, intercept more phone calls – we must re-publish the cartoons and continue to satirise and lampoon. But when do we talk about the conditions that can foster terrorism? Of how we allow multiple viewpoints to co-exist in a terror free world? Or even more straightforward questions like, if prison is a hotbed of radicalistion then why do we cut the budgets for prisons and allow them to become so overcrowded that no-one has any idea what is happening inside? When do we talk honestly about history?

Maybe none of that matters. Perhaps the politicians answers are the right ones… Je ne sais pas.

Jamie Oliver, genius

Jamie Oliver holding a knife between his teeth

Jamie Oliver, genius

You have to take your hat off to Jamie Oliver. It takes real skill to pull off a marketing campaign like the one he just has to promote his new book and TV series. If his aim had been even slightly off and he’d insulted black people or Muslims he could have landed himself in big trouble – politicians might have gotten involved, even the police, but with a deft hand he insulted only poor people and women. And with an uncanny knack of hitting the zeitgeist squarely on the head, he understood that the nation is in no mood for backing down to trolling. We rose to meet his taunting like a salmon leaping upstream into the paws of a grizzly bear.

As a tribute to Jamie, here’s a ‘Money-Saving Meal’ from my own repertoire. At 87p per portion it’s perhaps a little too cheap for Jamie’s cheap meals, but it’s what we had for tea yesterday so there you go.

1st course:

8 x Quorn sausages (pan-fried from frozen)
Oven fries (oven-cooked from frozen)
Raw salad: grated carrot, sliced white cabbage and onion
Peas (steamed from frozen)

Garnish: salad cream, mayonnaise, tomato sauce, hot chilli sauce (if liked)

2nd course:

A small amount of chocolate ice cream because the kids ate their peas.

The problem with the radicalisation explanation

Mohammad Sidique Khan

Mohammad Sidique Khan

On 7th July 2005, Mohammed Sidique Khan carried out his suicide bombing on an Edgware Road train, killing himself and five other people. Shortly after, there was an influx of journalists and writers to Beeston in Leeds (where Khan had grown up) in search of answers to the question, “why did he do it?” But did any of them ever answer the question? And is this even the right question? Continue reading