Teacher has gone…but the music still lingers.

By DAVID WOODING

WE often talk about the need for inspirational teachers to help drive up standards in our schools.

Sadly, there aren’t nearly enough. But I was lucky to have come across one who made a big impact on me.

Ken Marshall was the man who introduced me to one of the enduring loves of my life – music.

He was a dedicated professional who would make that extra effort for any pupil in whom he spotted potential.

And I was among a group of 11-year-olds who seemed to show an interest after hearing a piece from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite.

So along with others, I was invited to Mr Marshall’s home on the first Saturday of every month to squat on the floor of his front room and listen to the works of great composers boom out of his two-foot high stereo speakers.

If we were honest, some were just curious about having a peek inside “Sir’s” home. Or perhaps it was the orange squash and biscuits served by his lovely wife, Joyce.

But we were all swept along by Mr Marshall’s infectious personality – and the music.

In between snatches of masterpieces – he only played enough to entice us – we listened enraptured as our wiry-haired, gravel-voiced tutor told us stories about the lives of Beethoven, Dvorak and Brahms.

He was knowledgeable, funny and enthusiastic and we learned so much more than just music. We learned about manners, use of language and how to sit still.

Mr Marshall wasn’t even my teacher. I was invited along by a former pupil of his I met when we started at the same senior school.

I had to take a typed note to be signed by my parents which outlined the Music Club rules. I still obey rule one to this day and chastise others who don’t. No talking when the music is playing.

So it came that through rain, wind and snow I would make the 40-minute Saturday morning trek to feast my ears on Mr Marshall’s music collection.

Before long, I had passed the fidget test and was allowed to go to a live concert. Mr Marshall had worked a bit of a scam with a friend who worked in the cafeteria of the Queen’s Hall in Widnes.

Whenever the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra came to play, he would smuggle a few of us in to hear the concert for free, kneeling on seats in the coffee bar to peer through a giant, decorative hatch in the wall to see the musicians playing below.

It was in this somewhat awkward position that I listened, usually in awe, for the first time such great works as Stravinsky’s Petrushka, Sibelius’s fifth symphony, Hindemith’s Nobilissima Visione,  Britten’s Les Illuminations and the Prelude and Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.

I was hooked, and saved up my pocket money until I had 99p to buy my first LP – a Classics for Pleasure recording of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. I’d only heard the first 10 minutes of the work in Mr Marshall’s front room – but it was the first time I felt my spine tingle.

Thus began a lifelong friendship…and an odyssey, exploring the work of dozens of composers who have provided an endless source of pleasure and fulfillment.

Later, I began to attend concerts myself and now realise life would be empty had Mr Marshall not opened the door to the joy of music.

So I was deeply saddened to learn that the kind, encouraging man who put me on this wonderful path has died.

There will be many other former pupils whose lives were influenced by Mr Marshall who, like me, will want to say farewell and thanks for enriching our lives.

You may be gone but the gift you gave will stay with us always.

How 2 Jags bought 20,000 “ego” pens at our expense

By DAVID WOODING
JOHN Prescott has inked his high-spending show-off ways into political history – with a stash of “vanity” pens.
The former Deputy PM ordered 20,000 branded ballpoints costing taxpayers £3,450.
But there are so many that ministers are still stumbling over boxes of them SEVEN YEARS after he stood down.
Now civil servants have been ordered to STOP ordering fresh supplies until the Prezza pens are used up.
A source said: “What sort of an ego must you have to go out and order a job lot of pens with your own logo on them?
The horde was discovered when Communities Secretary Eric Pickles took over the Whitehall building once occupied by MrPrescott’s empire.
Image
The ballpoints are emblazoned with the legend “The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister” – and a picture of the department’s crest.
Brandon Lewis, a junior minister in the new Communities Department, said: “It is quite some legacy he has left.
“Even now, these pens serve to remind us of the sheer vanity, waste of John Prescott and his colleagues.
“It is sickening to think they were ordered at a time the last government was plunging the country into debt.”
A government spokesman said: “The new administration is encouraging staff to use up these pens to help reduce the need to buy stationery.”

New Jeers Honours

By DAVID WOODING

THERE has been plenty of gloom in the corridors of power during 2013.

It’s been a year of squeezes and freezes as politicians tell us all to tighten our belts.

But through all the austerity, they still managed to make us laugh – if only at their own tantrums, cock-ups.

So let’s loosen those belts a notch or two as Sun on Sunday Political Editor David Wooding honours those MPs in his NewJeers Political Awards.

Prat of the Year

MEP Godfrey Bloom for a string of outbursts too brazen even for the “fruitcakes and loonies” of UKIP. He dubbed African countries “bongo bong land”, branding women who don’t clean behind the fridge “sluts”. UKIP boss Nigel Farage stripped him of the party whip – probably using even more fruity language in the process.

Gold medal for selfie-exposure

David Cameron was caught snoozing barefoot on a bed in the background of a picture, posted on Instagram, of his sister-in-law getting ready for her wedding. Clearly, the red ministerial box beside him was full of dreary reading.

Image

The Gillette Award for sharpest put-down

The striker whose one-liner floored Tory heavyweight Eric Pickles after he scoffed at the small number of union activists on a Whitehall picket line.The roly poly Cabinet bruiser laughed: “I’ve walked past longer chip shop queues.” Quick as a flash, the un-named striker retorted: “But Eric, you’ve NEVER walked past a chip shop queue in your life.”

Shafter BAFTA

London Mayor Boris Johnson with this put down for Labour leader Ed Miliband: “Only a socialist could consider family ties as being so trivial as to shaft his own brother.”

Gaffe of the year 1

David Cameron for declaring he was on “team Nigella” and almost halting the trial of the TV chef’s former servants. The judge told the jury to ignore what he said. Labour would, no doubt, agree.

Gaffe of the year 2

The PM again for being unable to quote the price of a loaf – then admitting he baked his own using a posh, trendy bread-maker and organic flour.

A League of Their Own medal for sport

Sports minister Helen Grant who failed to get a single question right in a TV sports quiz.  She couldn’t name the Wimbledon women’s champ (Marion Bartoli), the FA cup holders (Wigan Athletic) or the England rugby captain (Chris Robshaw). Back in training for you, Ms Grant.

Twit of the Year

Labour MP Jack Dromey favourited gay porn websites on Twitter. The dad-of-three accidentally clicked on posts about well-endowed gay black men while researching a holiday. His wife, equalities zealot Harriet Harman, will clearly be pleased with his efforts to achieve diversity.

Jingle Balls Medal

Ed Balls, under pressure over his red-faced blustering performance at the autumn statement, mis-timed his grade three piano exam for the same day and had to postpone it. But he did better in his first public recital when he played a piece for children with only a few bum notes.

Pants on Fire Diploma

This is always a tough one in politics, with so many liars to choose from. But Chris Huhne wins this year’s award on points…the three he had put on his wife’s driving licence. The former Energy Secretary was jailed for eight months for perverting justice, but freed after serving 62 days, describing it as a “humbling and sobering experience”. True to form, it wasn’t long before he shamelessly took to the airwaves pontificating on the behaviour of others. Huhne wasn’t the only politician to run into trouble behind the wheel, though…

Strop Gear Award for Motoring

Commons Speaker John Bercow was called an “arrogant toff” and a “little weasel” in a five-minute dressing down by a mum who claimed he pranged her car while parking.

The Red “Ed” Light Award for Road discipline

Ed Balls, famed for blowing his top during Commons debates, didn’t see red for once – at a set of traffic lights. The shadow chancellor was fined after police cameras caught him jumping a red signal in his car. He confessed only weeks earlier he had also been caught speeding.

We’re all in this (parking space) together medal

George Osborne, after his car was caught on camera using a disabled parking bay in the same week the Chancellor cut disability benefits. And while we’re on motoring…

U-turn of the Year

David Cameron promised to be the greenest PM ever but with a screech of tyres he then promised to “cut the green crap” to bring down energy costs. Foot on the gas, Dave.

Margaret Thatcher memorial medal for tributes

Respect – but not respected – MP George Galloway produced the most churlish response to Lady Thatcher’s death with “tramp the dirt down”. He shares the award with ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell who provided the most cringe-making tribute: “A grocer’s daughter who taught me anything is possible…x.”

Nelson Mandela Award for Name-dropping

Nearly all top politicians were quick to boast how they once shook hands with Nelson Mandela…apart from Nick Clegg. But that didn’t stop him making a personal tribute on his death. The Deputy PM was greeted with howls of laughter as he told the Commons he never met the South African leader – but knew somebody who had.

Snouts in the Trough Award

Millionaire health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who blew £3,700 of taxpayers’ money learning his Chinese wife’s language, was front runner. But he was pipped at the post by most of the 650 other MPs who demanded an 11 per cent pay rise while the rest of us have our wages squeezed.

Fashionista of the Year

Labour’s Stella Creasy left kitten-heeled Home Secretary Theresa May in the shade by donning a chic blue PVC pencil skirt to question the PM in the Commons. Perhaps she’ll land a shadow Cabinet job – but her leader will make the vinyl decision.

Image

Rocky Belt for Parliamentary punch-ups

Hellraiser Eric Joyce spent a night in police cells after a brawl in a Commons bar – just a year after being charged with another Westminster fracas. But it was his decision to stand down as Falkirk MP which started the mother of all punch-ups as Ed Miliband squared up to union militants over who should be Labour’s new candidate.

Snooze-night award for political broadcasting

Newsnight editor Ian Katz wins hands down for taking to Twitter to brand Labour’s rising star Rachel Reeves “boring snoring” moments after she went on his BBC2 show. Ms Reeves replied simply: “Thanks”. But red-faced Katz, only two weeks in his job after leaving the Guardian, apologized in writing.

Plain speaking award

John Prescott, who on hearing his successor as deputy PM, Nick Clegg, has 15 advisers, quipped: “Even Jesus Christ capped it at 12.”

Political wisdom award

TV’s Jeremy Paxman for summing up the three choices facing voters at the next election – barely 500 days away – thus: “The people who gave us five years of austerity, the people who left us in this mess and  the people who pledged they would not raise student fees – the most blatant lie in recent political history.”

Oops!! Here’s what Lib Dems will be telling us over next few days

By DAVID WOODING

IT was meant as a private briefing note for Lib Dem MPs, so they knew the “line to take” in media interviews at the party conference in Glasgow.

Unfortunately, some hapless soul accidentally sent it to journalists instead.

It urges them to stress that the party is in “confident mood” and gives them nuggets and sound bytes to say before the cameras. So save yourself all that time watching tedious interviews on the telly and read the memo yourself, in just over a minute!

The advice misses one golden rule of politics…think and double check your email before pressing the send button.

THE MEMO IN FULL:

Five things to remember for every interview

  • This conference sees the party in a confident mood
  • We have a strong record of achievement in Government
  • Our priorities are jobs and easing the squeeze on household budgets
  • Labour cannot be trusted to build a stronger economy
  • The Conservatives on their own cannot build a fairer society

Fairer taxes

Under Nick Clegg’s leadership, the party have focused on the old liberal principle of favouring taxation on unearned wealth over hard work. This has culminated in the introduction in government of the key Lib Dem policy of cutting taxes by £700 for more than 20m people.

In these difficult times, it is important that everyone makes their contribution. It is right that we ask the broadest shoulder to bear their fair share: it is unrealistic to cut more money from welfare spending without increasing taxes on Britain’s richest.

We are looking at how the richest 10% of people, those earning over £50,000, could make a further contribution. The vast majority of people in the country would consider £50,000 a very large salary: these are not the middle income earners.

Spare room subsidy

From April 2013 the Government introduced a reduction in Housing Benefit for those who are receiving benefit for spare bedrooms in the social rented sector. It is not a tax.

1.            The policy is about making better use of social housing

2.            Many councils have people on waiting lists or living in overcrowded accommodation while others are funded for spare rooms they don’t need

3.            Why should someone who rents a council house get benefit for a spare room when you don’t if you have a private landlord?

4.            The policy will also contain the growing Housing Benefit bill for the taxpayer

5.            It will also encourage people to look for work

The Liberal Democrats in Government have secured an additional £35m fund to help claimants affected by the removal of the spare room subsidy who need extra support. This funding consists of £5m for rural areas with very isolated communities, £10m for all local authorities and £20m as a bidding fund for local authorities who can demonstrate that they have or are developing a robust policy to distribute discretionary housing payments and who have an additional need for funding.

Key Stats

·         Nearly one third of working-age social housing tenants on Housing Benefit are living in accommodation too big for their needs.

·         There are nearly 1m spare bedrooms, with an estimated cost to the taxpayer of up to half-a-billion pounds a year.

·         There are over 250,000 households living in overcrowded accommodation in the Social Rented Sector in England, who need more space.

·         Nearly 2m households (1.8m) in England on the social housing waiting list.

·         The cost of HB has increased by 50% in real terms over the last decade

In Scotland:

·         The housing benefit bill is £1.8bn

·         Based on the Scottish Housing Conditions Survey (SHCS), there are 59,000 households overcrowded in Scotland (3% of the total).  25,000 of these are in the social rented sector.

In the social rented sector in Scotland, there are:

·         148,000households occupying one bedroom properties

·         252,000households occupying two bedroom properties

·         Around 20,000new lettings of one bedroom properties in 2011

·         Over 5,000 new dwellings completed in 2011

·         158,000on waiting lists

Discretionary Housing Payments

To ensure we protect the vulnerable, we have trebled the Discretionary Housing Payment budget, which will enable local authorities to provide additional support, and respond on a case by case basis.

We have provided DHPs for three years, and it is under constant review. We have allocated £150m to local authorities for discretionary housing payments (DHPs) this year, including £25m for those in adapted accommodation affected by the removal of the spare room subsidy. We have also allocated an extra £5m for the most rural areas to help support remote and isolated communities. We have given councils an extra £10m to support the administration of the policy and there is a £20m fund available which councils can bid for if they need extra support. Some local authorities may claim they do not have enough DHPs. Similar claims were made in 2011/12, when councils ended up under spending their DHP budget by £11m.

Mansion Tax

The Liberal Democrats want everyone to pay their fair share, which is why we believe a Mansion Tax on the value of properties over £2m is fair.

To say this will affect houses worth more than £1.25m is nonsense invented by people who want to grab a headline. Our policy is for a threshold of £2m.

Personal allowance threshold

In government we have achieved our manifesto pledge to increase the income tax personal allowance to £10,000, taking 2.7m people out of income tax and giving a tax cut of £700 per annum to 24m others.

As the next step, we believe that there is a clear case for taking the equivalent of a full-time job on the minimum wage (equivalent to £12,300 per annum at current rates) out of income tax entirely. This is a bold move which would provide tax relief to many millions of families on low and middle incomes, and would help to maximise the rewards of employment for those on low incomes.

Making this change in one go would come at a significant cost to the Treasury, therefore we intend to phase this change in in stages over the course of the next parliament. It would be paid for through the other tax changes we propose to make, such as introduction of a Mansion Tax, Capital Gains Tax and pension tax reform, and our range of measures designed to tackle tax avoidance.

In this way we can provide tax cuts to those who most deserve them, encourage employment and boost the economy.

Capital Gains Tax

Taxing capital gains at a lower rate than income, as per the existing system, is of little or no benefit to the least well-off members of society, but allows some of the wealthiest individuals to pay significantly less tax than if the rates were aligned. This is fundamentally unfair.

In government, we acted quickly to make the regime more progressive by introducing a higher rate of 28% for gains made by higher and additional rate taxpayers, however ultimately we believe capital gains tax rates should be aligned with income tax rates.

Our tax reforms would achieve this, and would also reintroduce indexation allowances, in order to ensure that no-one is taxed on the portion of a ‘gain’ which has arisen simply due to inflation – and therefore ensure that no-one is penalised for holding assets over the long term.

The additional revenue that would be raised by these measures would go directly towards our aim of increasing the income tax personal allowance to the level equivalent to the minimum wage, which would benefit all individuals in full time employment – instead of the preferential capital gains tax rates which only benefit the wealthy.

Pensions tax relief

A £1m lifetime allowance would still be a generous regime – even at the existing low annuity rates, a £1m pension pot for a typical pensioner would provide a tax-free lump sum of £250,000 on retirement plus an inflation-linked pension of around £25,000 a year (or £45,000 per year fixed).

In reality the vast majority of employees will not reach a pension pot of £1m, and therefore will be unaffected by our proposal.

Cider

We want to alter the definition of cider for duty purposes to exclude the mass-produced, lower quality products from the beneficial low duty rates (compared to beer or wine) which apply to cider.

The current requirement to be classed as a cider is for only 35% of the product to be from apple juice. Increasing this requirement (to, say, 75%) would require manufacturers of high volume, low quality product to either significantly increase the quality of what they’re making, or pay duty at (considerably higher) wine rates. By contrast, those manufacturers already producing cider from actual apples would be unaffected.

Either way, the cost of low-end products would increase, the market would be levelled, and the harmful social impact of very cheap, high-strength ciders would be reduced.

Jewellery Tax

We have never proposed introducing a ’jewellery tax’ (or more accurately a ‘net asset tax’). As part of our extensive tax policy consultation process, we invited party members (and others) to comment on the idea of a French-style ‘net asset tax’, as this was one of the ideas that had been suggested by contributors to the consultation process up to that point. Ultimately the idea was rejected by the working group.

Stronger economy

Due to a banking crisis and Labour’s economic mismanagement, the coalition inherited an economy in very bad shape.

With sustained action and after taking many difficult decisions, the coalition has managed to reduce the structural deficit by a third since coming to power. Having created over a million private sector jobs, with increasing business confidence and the economy having grown for two successive quarters, there are signs that the economy is healing, although there is still a long way to go.

We have proposed taking radical action to tackle high youth unemployment by developing a comprehensive strategy to give 16-24 year olds access to skills, advice and opportunities necessary to find sustainable employment.

We would also like to pool council borrowing limits so councils who want to build more houses, but are at their limits, are able to do so. We will also examine whether Public Sector Net Debt (PSND) could be brought into line with definitions of other EU countries, enabling councils with a sustainable business model to borrow to invest in building more homes for rent.

Youth Contract

The Youth Contract aimed to create up to 160,000 jobs over three years for under-25s. By the end of July, just under 5,000 wage subsidies had been paid out. Nick Clegg acknowledged at the time that “the initial launch of the offer of this wage subsidy did get off to a slow start”. However he was quick to point that the Youth Contract may be more appealing for small and medium-sized businesses than large corporations.

The Deputy Prime Minister has also been keen to learn what could have been done to promote the Youth Contract better, such as utilising the Jobcentre Plus network more. The Confederation of British Industry are supportive of the Youth Contract and government remains determined to improve uptake.

Race equality

Liberal Democrats reject all prejudice and discrimination, as well as all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality. The party is fully committed to helping Britain’s ethnic minority communities achieve their full potential.

Racial inequality and racism continues to be a major problem faced by black and minority ethnic people from early years and throughout education and employment.

The motion reaffirms this commitment, and aims to tackle a number of inequalities in the education sector, while also aiming to improve race equality among private sector companies in receipt of public money.

Cohabitation rights

We believe the discrepancies between the rights afforded to cohabiting unmarried couples and those that are married need addressing, to give equal legal recognition to both relationships.

Currently if one partner dies without leaving a will, the surviving partner will not automatically inherit anything unless the couple owned property jointly. Equally in a cohabiting couple, currently neither partner has a legal duty to support the other financially, and voluntary agreements to pay maintenance to each other may be difficult to enforce, irrespective of the facts and circumstances of the relationship, such as sacrifices that may have been made by one party.

Veils in schools

Speaking to the Telegraph, Jeremy Browne said: “I am instinctively uneasy about restricting the freedom of individuals to observe the religion of their choice. That would apply to Christian minorities in the Middle East just as much as religious minorities here in Britain.

“But there is genuine debate about whether girls should feel a compulsion to wear a veil when society deems children to be unable to express personal choices about other areas like buying alcohol, smoking or getting married.

“We should be very cautious about imposing religious conformity on a society which has always valued freedom of expression.”

Harassment allegations

Sexual harassment or abuse will not be tolerated in the Liberal Democrats. We have acknowledged that there have been failings in the past. We have apologised for those publicly and we are determined they will not be repeated.

That’s why we set up an independent inquiry into the party’s culture and practices, which was widely publicised and made a number of recommendations which are now being implemented.

Anyone who had suffered harassment or abuse was encouraged to come forward and give evidence and that evidence was taken extremely seriously. Anyone who has not come forward is encouraged to do so by contacting the independent helpline we have set up for anyone who wishes to make a complaint or seek advice.

As a result of the inquiry we have made a number of changes to make it clearer and easier to make a complaint; to improve our party’s HR practices; and change our party’s rules to make clear that such behaviour will result in disciplinary action.

Any suggestion that we have been anything other than completely open is wrong. Every part of this process has been transparent and the recommendations have been debated and approved this weekend, in the conference hall and in front of live TV cameras.

Polling

The latest Ashcroft poll of marginal seats only sampled Tory held seats, 32 which are Labour facing and 8 Lib Dem. Those 8 are Oxwab, Montgomeryshire, Camborne & Redruth, Truro & Falmouth, Newton Abbot, Harrogate, St Albans and Watford.

In those 8 seats we are almost neck a neck with the Conservatives. Voting intention is Con 32 Lib Dem 29 Lab 18 Ukip 12.

Asked whether each party shares their values, 37% of people in those seats agreed the Lib Dems did, 35% agreed Labour did and 30% Tories. Asked whether they agreed that each party was ‘on the side of people like me’ 40% agreed that the Lib Dems are, 40% Lab and 25% Tories.

We are seen as particularly strong on the environment, with 45% saying we would do the best job of protecting it, 20% Cons and 19% Lab.

We are the most active party in these seats. In the last few months we’ve knocked on the door of 14% of homes in these seats (Con 12% Lab 8%); telephoned 3% (Con 2% Lab 1%); delivered to 41% (Con 36% Lab 23%).

Conference narrative

The Liberal Democrats go into conference in confident mood. We are the most united of the major parties, with a proud record of achievement in Government. At this conference we will begin to set out our stall for the local and European elections next year and the General Election in 2015. We are planning for a second term in Government as the only party capable of delivering a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life.

There will be a number of important debates that will form the basis of our policy platform for 2015, including on the economy, fairer taxes, higher education, Europe, nuclear power and defence.

We are a party with a clear priority – jobs and easing the squeeze on household budgets. Liberal Democrats have cut taxes for working people and helped businesses to create more than a million jobs – now we want to help them create a million more.

We are in Scotland just a year before the country votes in the independence referendum. Liberal Democrats are proud of our United Kingdom and strongly believe our two nations are better together. A vote to stay in the UK is not a vote for no change. Liberal Democrats want to see further powers transferred to Scotland as part of the UK.

Key achievements in Government

In Government, Liberal Democrats have:

·         Given a £700 tax cut to more than 20m working people and lifted 2.7m of the poorest workers out of paying Income Tax altogether

·         Helped businesses create more than a million jobs

·         Created a record 1.2m apprenticeships

·         Given extra money for the children who need it the most through the £2.5bn Pupil Premium

·         Introduced radical plans for shared parental leave

·         Given generous rises in the state pension through our ‘triple lock’ – now worth an extra £650 since Labour

·         Given the poorest two-year-olds and all three-and-four year-olds 15 hours of free childcare per week

·         Passed a Bill introducing Equal Marriage for all couples

·         Invested billions in renewable energy and energy efficiency, supporting thousands of green jobs

How we are helping to create jobs

In Government, we have helped create:

·         Jobs for young people- 1.2m apprentices and 110,000 work placements for young people out of work

·         Jobs in manufacturing- £5.5bn extra into science, high-tech manufacturing and renewable energy

·         Jobs across the country - £2.6bn in our Regional Growth Fund, giving money to growing businesses around the country

·         Jobs building Britain- £15.3bn to improve Britain’s roads, railways and housing

·         Help for job creators- £2,000 cash back to employers on the tax they pay on their employees, to make it more affordable for businesses to take on staff

·         Green jobs- £3bn to fund the world’s first Green Investment Bank, putting extra money into renewable energy

·         Rural jobs- £530m to improve access to superfast broadband, creating jobs and helping rural businesses

Now we are campaigning to double the number of workplaces who offer apprenticeships in the UK – from 100,000 to 200,000.

The SNP Government is allowing Scotland to fall behind on apprenticeships.The percentage of employers offering apprenticeships in Scotland is lower than in England and the growth of apprentice new starts in Scotland has slowed, compared to a big rise in England.

We are also campaigning for the Welsh Government to fund a programme to highlight the benefits of apprenticeships for businesses and young people.

Labour

Labour cannot be trusted to build a stronger economy. They crashed the economy and have no answers on how to create jobs and get the economy growing.

·         “There’s no money left” – Labour nearly bankrupted Britain. We are cleaning up their mess.

·         Labour let the banks run wild. They cosied up to gamblers in the City of London and left us all with a huge bill when the banks collapsed

·         Labour’s numbers don’t add up. Their extra spending and unfunded tax cuts would break their own debt rules and add £201bn to the UK’s debt for our children and grandchildren to pay off (source: IFS)

Ed Miliband is a weak leader of a divided party that has nothing to say about the big issues of the day. Despite scaremongering for years, they have been proved wrong. Wrong on the economy. Wrong that unemployment would soar.

Time and time again Ed Miliband has been called upon to make a decision and time and time again he has ducked it. He has no answers to some of the biggest questions facing the country:

·         Where do Labour stand on the economy?

·         Where do Labour stand on welfare?

·         Where do Labour stand on Europe?

·         What is the Labour policy on schools?

·         What is the Labour policy on the NHS?

Conservatives

The Conservatives on their own cannot build a fairer society. In Government we have blocked Tory plans to:

·         Allow bosses to fire staff at will

·         Give an inheritance tax cut to millionaires

·         Let schools be run for profit

Tory backbenchers have shown their true colours in recent months, not least when a group of them released their Alternative Queen’s Speech, which included plans to:

·         Bring back the death penalty

·         Ban the burka

·         Privatise the BBC

·         Introduce an annual ‘Margaret Thatcher Day’

Independence

·         Scotland has the best of both worlds as part of the UK with a Scottish Parliament that makes domestic decisions and a strong voice in the UK Parliament.

·         Devolution delivers for Scotland and we are doing well as part of the UK family.

·         We are campaigning to win the referendum on 18 Sept 2014.

·         A vote to stay in the UK is not a vote for no change. Liberal Democrats want to see further powers transferred to Scotland as part of the UK.

FAMILY DOCTORS ARE BACK…TO SOLVE A&E CRISIS

By DAVID WOODING
TRADITIONAL family doctors will to make a comeback under plans to tackle the A and E crisis.
GPs will be relieved of box-ticking chores and given more time to care for patients.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt hopes it will divert A THIRD of people away from over-stretched casualty departments.
Up to 6.5 million people go straight to hospital because they can’t see their GP, chemist or paramadic.
But Mr Hunt believes the return of old-style family practitioner responsible for their patients 24/7 will ease the pressure.
ImageReforms to be unveiled this week will put GPs “back in the driving seat” of health care.
From next April, old and vulnerable patients will be guaranteed a “named” GP who knows their medical history.
It is the first step towards tearing up Labour’s controversial contract which he blames for queues outside A&E units.
The right will be rolled out to other groups over the next four years.
In an exclusive interview with The Sun, Mr Hunt said; “Since 2004, we’ve made it easier and easier to get into A&E and harder to go and see a GP.
“The average wait in an A&E is 50 minutes. Compare that with how hard it is to get an appointment with your GP when you phone up.
“It’s not because GPs aren’t working hard, it’s just that Labour changed the nature of their job.
“Now they are only responsible for people on their list when their doors are open. Once they close up shop it’s someone else’s job.”
Mr Hunt also wants to phase out targets will force GPs to take a certain number of blood pressure readings or ask people how much many they smoke or drink – whatever their ailment.
He said: “I’m not joking. They get paid by asking people on their list a series of questions and the taxpayer pays them. This is what the contract introduced.
“You get the situation where a patient comes in with a fever and the GP says I need to ask you 16 other questions. That’s got to change. You’ve got to feel when you see your GP that the GP is there for you and is looking at the whole of you.”
He stressed: “It’s not about saying GPs must work harder, it’s about changing the structure which makes it impossible for them to be the family doctors they wanted to be when they joined the profession.
“If you go to a GPs’ surgery now, it is like a mini A&E and some feel they are fending off the hoards at the gate and the moment the phone lines open there is a whole queue of people trying to get through.”
The pressure on GPs has in turn led to people going straight to casualty for out of hours problems that could be dealt with by a family doctor.
Seven in ten unplanned admissions are over-65s. They also take up more time because some have multiple conditions which a family doctor could deal with quicker.
Hospitals also feel the pressure on bed space because consultants are less willing to release a patient unless they are sure they have got care at home.
Image
Mr Hunt added: “There is a group of patients who most of the time probably shouldn’t be going to A&E at all and these are the people who we’d look after much better if we proactively supported them so they didn’t need to go to hospital in the first place.
“Labour’s GP contract changes in 2004 destroyed the personal link between patients and their GPs by abolishing named GPs. As a result we have too many forgotten old people being pushed from pillar to post between hospital, social care and their GP surgery.
“That is the biggest single thing we can do to make A&E sustainable going forward.”
Mr Hunt said his aim was to tackle health issues outside hospitals as well as inside.
He has introduced Ofsted-style ward inspections to prevent a repeat of the Mid-Staffs scandal.
But he added: “It is also about people being left alone who actually need our NHS to be there for them. This is what will transform the NHS in the long run and make it a sustainable organization.
“The changes I will announce next week will mean there is someone looking out for you them the whole time, someone from the NHS who is there for these people.”
But last night doctors’ leaders warned the plan would fail without extra funding.
Mike Pringle, president of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: “They are overwhelmed by the workload they are expected to deliver.
“We have got to start to build general practice, not blame it, not victimise it.
“We have to invest in it if we are going to solve these problems. And I am sure the Secretary of State recognises that.”

Let life mean life when it must

By DAVID WOODING

WHAT is the meaning of life? Not much if meddling European judges are anything to go by.
They have ruled it is inhuman and degrading to tell murderers they must die in jail.
It is cruel, they say, because it robs them of any hope of being freed.
This ruling opens the door for the most brutal killers to seek a review of their sentence.
But don’t their victims have human rights, too?
What about the lives they so cruelly snuffed out? Or the hopes of loved ones left behind?
Britain did enough for killers’ rights when it abolished hanging in 1969.
It is enough to expect that for the most heinours murders life should mean life.
Human rights laws were drawn up to protect people from evil.
Not the monsters who inflict it.

Tom Watson quits


By DAVID WOODING

LABOUR MP Tom Watson has quit the Shadow Cabinet in the heat of a growing storm over a union plot to seize control of candidate selection.

In his resignation letter to Ed Miliband, he has a dig at “unattributed briefings” by fellow front-benchers.

This story is far from over. Here’s Mr Watson’s resignation letter to the Labour leader.

Dear Ed,

I said that I’d stay with you as general election co-ordinator within the Shadow Cabinet as long as I was useful. I think it would be a good idea for you, and me, if I stood down from the role now.

As you know, I offered my resignation on Tuesday and you asked me to reconsider. I’ve thought about it and still feel it is better for you and the future unity of the party that I go now. There are some who have not forgiven me for resigning in 2006. I fully accept the consequences of that decision and genuinely hope my departure allows the party to move on.

Yet it’s not the unattributed shadow cabinet briefings around the mess in Falkirk that has convinced me that the arrangement has run its course (though they don’t help). I believe that the report should be published – in full – and the whole truth told as soon as possible so that the record can be made clear. I’ve still not seen the report but believe there are an awful lot of spurious suppositions being written.

I wish to use the backbenches to speak out in areas of personal interest: open government and the surveillance state, the digital economy, drones and the future of conflict, the child abuse inquiries, the aftermath of the Murdoch scandal and grass roots responses to austerity.

Having resigned a couple of times before, I know how puckish lobby hacks might choose to misconstrue the departure. So to make it harder for them let me say this: I’m proud of your Buddha-like qualities of patience, deep thought, compassion and resolve. I remain your loyal servant. I’ll always be on hand to help you if you need me. I just don’t think you need me in the Shadow Cabinet any more. After nearly thirty years of this, I feel like I’ve seen the merry-go-round turn too many times. Whereas the Shadow Cabinet’s for people who still want to get dizzy.

You have it in you to be an outstanding Labour Prime Minister. The road ahead is always rocky but I will be with you all of the way, cheering you on from the backbenches. You’re my friend and leader, and I’m going to do all I can to make sure you win in 2015.