New Sneers Honours

By DAVID WOODING
IT’S been a year when the people of Britain have stuck a collective two fingers up to MPs.
Voters have used the ballot box to take their revenge on politicians of all varieties, whom many see as out of touch.
But some MPs and peers  haven’t learned a thing as they hurl insults, throw tantrums and sneer at ordinary people.
So in an irreverent, but light-hearted, look back at the past year in Parliament, here are my New Sneer’s Honours.
Sneer of the Realm: Labour’s Emily Thornberry who scoffed at a house with three England flags and a white van outside. She resigned as shadow attorney general hours after tweeting a picture of them hours before the Rochester by-election result.
Life sneerage: Fouled-mouthed Tory Andrew Mitchell fought a £3 million, two-year legal after denying he called cops “plebs” when they refused to let him ride his bike through the Downing Street main gates. A High Court judge sided with the cops and told the snobbish ex-Chief Whip: “On yer bike.”
Cabbie-net Minister of the Year: David Mellor berated a taxi driver who suggested a quicker route, calling him a “a smart-arsed little b*****d” and telling him: “Shut up you sweaty little git.” The Tory ex-minister added: “I’ve been in the Cabinet, I’m an award-winning broadcaster, I’m a Queen’s counsel.” He was forced to apologise after cabbies threatened to ban him. I’d like to see how long he waits next time he wants to hail a taxi.
Sneer of the Year: Tory MP Mark Garnier for telling his party not to bother with “dog-end voters” who live in “outlying regions”. Suspect he’ll soon be at the dog-end of his political career.
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Emily Thornberry and the twitpic that cost her her job.

Yes, Yes, Yes Minister: Deputy PM’s wife Miriam Clegg wins the honesty award for saying “women have been faking it for years”. But has she told husband Nick?
Snooze-Night TV Award: David Cameron, who admitted he often dozes off on the sofa when he has a night in front of the telly with wife Sam. The PM said: “Half an hour of Silent witness and we’re both asleep.” At least Sam doesn’t have to fake it.
The “Three minutes is a long time in politics” Award: Tory chief whip Michael Gove was nominated by his gossipy wife Sarah Vine. When told that men burn 4.2 calories a minute during sex, she quipped: “Wow! That’s 12.6 calories a session.”
Big Benn Clanger of the Year: Diane Abbott for live tweeting from inside church at Tony Benn’s funeral. An angry admirer of the Labour legend (that’s Benn, not Abbott) raged: “Why not go the whole hog and do a selfie with the coffin?”
The Prat that got the Queen: The royal claws were out for David Cameron after he claimed Her Majesty “purred” with pleasure when he phoned her the No vote in the Scottish independence referendum.
OBE – ‘Orrible Butty Eater: Ed Miliband, who bit off more than he could chew when he tried to battle his way through a bacon sandwich. The sarnie won.
The Gillette Award for Sharpest Political Putdown: Louise Mensch after MP’s wife Karen Danczuk posted saucy cleavage selfies on Twitter: “Put them away, love. Frankly, I’d rather see Ed Miliband eating a bacon sandwich.”
Karen Danczuk gives yours truly a lesson in how to take a selfie.

Karen Danczuk gives yours truly a lesson in how to take a selfie.

Gold Medal for Selfie-Exposure: Charities Minister Brooks Newmark resigned after sending explicit photographs of himself to an undercover reporter. The nation was appalled at his bad taste. Surely, no self-respecting MP would be seen dead hanging out of paisley pyjamas.
Class Warrior of the Year: Singer Myleene Klass for ripping Ed Miliband to shreds on TV over his planned mansion tax. “You can’t just point at something and say let’s tax it,” she stormed. “You might as well tax this glass of water.”
Worst political U-turn: Ed Balls, who was investigated by cops after hitting a parked car while doing a seven-point turn in a narrow street then driving off. It’s not the first time the shadow chancellor has found himself in a tight spot.
The Jack Horner Award for Women’s Rights: Nigel Farage, who infuriated mums by telling them to breastfeed in the corner of cafes and restaurants where nobody could see them.
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Exposed: My story about Brooks Newmark.

Feminist of the Year: Sports Minister Helen Grant for her efforts to get more women involved in physical activity with these fine words of advice: “There are some wonderful sports you can do and look absolutely radiant and very feminine. Ballet, gymnastics, cheerleading and even roller-skating.”
Overseas Aid Champion: Harriet Harman who wore a T-shirt with the slogan “This is what a feminist looks like”. Her selfless act helped to boost employment in Mauritius, where women were paid 62p an hour to work in a sweatshop making the garments.
House of Lards Pin-up of the Year: Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who has been bombarded with demands for signed photographs from young girls in Russia. A puzzled aide admitted: “I’ve no idea why Eric is so big over there.”
Cockup of the Year: Communities Minister Penny Mordaunt for using the word “cock” six times and “lay” or “laid” five times during a Commons speech on poultry welfare. But she later let slip it was part of a smutty dare from Royal Navy officer friends.
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Penny Mordaunt: Putting cock welfare first.

Twerking twerp of the year: David Cameron for twerking at an Ibiza-style rave he hosted at Chequers to celebrate his wife Samantha’s 40th birthday – after branding top twerker Miley Cyrus a bad role model for kids.

Pint of Order: George “We’re all in this together” Osborne, for keeping a padlock on his office fridge to stop staff raiding his milk. Well, at least he’s miserly with the rest of us, too.
Rocky Belt for Parliamentary Punch-ups: SNP chief Alex Salmond and Labour’s Alistair Darling who squared up in live TV debates over Scots independence. Two Scottish men shouting at each other and they didn’t have the decency to do it in a Glasgow pub.
Resignation of the Year: Home Office minister Norman Baker quits, saying that working there was like “walking through mud”. Think how your boss, Theresa May copes, Norman. She does it wearing kitten heels.

 

Schools plagued by “sexting” craze, says MP

 By DAVID WOODING
 
SCHOOLS are in the grip of a “strip-tease culture” fuelled by the rise of smart phones, an MP has warned.
Labour’s Diane Abbott says teachers and parents are powerless to halt the growing craze of sending lewd pictures by text.
She fears mobile technology has saturated young lives with porn in a way they were not 20 years ago.
The shadow health minister added: “I think many teachers and parents are struggling to cop.
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“While parents are unlikely to allow their children to see an 18 film, now boys and girls as young as 10 or 11 can go online and see stuff they could not buy in a newsagent.”
Ms Abbott is alarmed by the rise in “slut shaming” – sexual bully by mobile phone or internet.
In a keynote speech this week, she will say: “Young people are accessing far harder pornographic images than 10 or 15 years ago.
“We have to ask, does that influenece what they themselves put on the internet?”
Prudish
Ms Abbott insists she is not being prudish or hankering after some “rose-tinted picture of childhood”.
But she wants to “change the wallpaper of children’s lives” by bringing in more positive role models.
“Schools should encourage girls to value their bodies in terms of their physical ability,” she will say.
“We need more Jessica Ennis, less Paris Hilton.”
She added: “We need a sex education revolution in ordinary British schools. We need Statutory personal, social, health and economic education and sex and relationships education.
“Sex education must focus on preparing young people to form healthy respectful, emotionally fulfilling relationships, and also deal with the issues of self-esteem.
“Gender equality issues need to be central on the educational agenda, and throughout the curriculum.”

1,000 matrons jobs go

By DAVID WOODING

A THOUSAND matrons have vanished from hospitals in the past three years – despite David Cameron’s pledge to give them more clout.

NHS figures show that one in six of the top nursing jobs have gone since Labour’s last year in power.

It emerged just months after the PM promised to have more figures of authority on the wards.

Mr Cameron said:  “Nursing needs to be about patients not paperwork. People want to see a figure of authority on the ward. Call them a matron, a ward -sister, or a team leader.”

But official figures show the number of modern matrons has fallen from 5,035 to 4,157 between 2009 and August this year.

Community matron numbers were down from 1,552 to 1,391 over the same period, according to statistics published in the Commons.

Labour said the figures were a blow to moves to improve leadership and cleanliness on wards.

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Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne (pictured above) said: “David Cameron promised to back matron, but he’s sacked matron instead.

“A formidable matron on a hospital ward goes a long way to reassure patients. They lead the nurses and make sure wards are spotless. Yet the Prime Minister’s spending cuts have cost the NHS a thousand matrons.

“Without strong leaders on the wards patients will pay the price. Ministers are taking unacceptable risks with standards of patient care. They cannot continue to ignore the warnings from nurses’ leaders.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “The NHS needs senior nurses to lead patient care at ward level. We want to see more of that – not less. But this data is wrong, as it doesn’t take account of four different types of senior nurses.  Looking at matron numbers alone is simplistic.
“We want to free up nurses’ time so they can spend it with patients – not with paperwork.”

Ten “urgent” ops cancelled every day

By DAVID WOODING
TEN patients had their NHS operations cancelled every day – despite being on the “urgent” list.
Health officials revealed the number facing painful delays has nearly doubled in the past two years.
Last month 320 ops, deemed by specialists to be urgent, were cancelled.
This is up from 273 the previous month – and an 86 per cent rise on August 2010 when 172 were postponed.
Labour health spokesman Andrew Gwynne said it was “outrageous” that so many patients suffered delays.
He added: “This government is leaving people in pain and discomfort as it plunges the NHS into chaos.
“At the election David Cameron promised to protect the NHS but he is betraying patients by axing 5,000 nursing jobs and inflicting budget cuts.
“The Prime Minister needs to get a grip. Patients are paying the price for his failings and they deserve better.”

Junk food craze sparks NHS fat ops crisis

By DAVID WOODING
POOR Brits on junk food diets are swamping the NHS with demands for quick-fix weight loss surgery.
A staggering 8,241 fat-busting ops were carried out last year – up 1,000 on 2010.  Nearly half of them among the most deprived social groups,
Official figures reveal that obesity has now become a problem of the poor, in the same way malnutrition was a century ago.
But more alarming is the growing number of working-class people resorting to drastic “quick fix” surgery to shed unwanted pounds.
NHS hospitals carried out nearly 1,000 more weight-loss ops on fatties in 2010-11 than in the previous year.
They included stomach stapling or fitting gastric bands, pouches and balloons to reduce the size of the stomach.
More than 1,094 were performed on patients from the poorest 10 per cent with a further 2,391 among the most deprived 30 per cent.
By contrast, only 405 in the top-earning 10 per cent of the country went under the surgeon’s knife to lose weight.
Last night a Labour MP blasted the “fast food, fast ops” culture costing the health service millions.
Quick fix
Shadow public health minister Diane Abbott said: “These figures on quick fix operations are alarming.
“It is a tragedy that this fast food, fast op culture is blighting the poorest families.
“A lot of these families scarcely eat fresh foods at all because calories have become cheap but real food is expensive.
“What we need is nothing short of a national health revolution, rather than these quick fix ops which are putting such a strain on our NHS.”
Experts estimate that the obesity crisis will add an extra £2billion to the health service bill by 2025, with 26 million people overweight.
A gastric band operation costs £6,000, a by-pass is £11,000, a gastric balloon £4,000 and a gastric sleeve £10,000.
Ms Abbott accused Health Secretary Andrew Lansley of doing too little to encourage healthy eating among the masses.
She added: “It is clear that healthy school food is not high on theis government’s agenda.
Demolish
“Schools should be on the front line in the battle against obesity. Healthy school dinners and the teaching of domestic science are crucial tools in improving health.
“But this government has ended the school lunch grant as a separate source of funding and exempted academies from the nutritional standards for all other state schools that Labour introduced after Jamie Oliver’s great work.”
At least 200 Brits are currently thought to be too fat to leave home. Firemen had to demolish part of a house in South Wales last month to rescue 63 stone Georgia Davis, 19, after she was taken ill.
Experts estimate the obesity crisis will cost the NHS an extra £2billion by 2025, with 26 million people overweight.
Meanwhile, a poll showed 56 per cent of Brits have no idea what they weight.

The rise of “McParenting”

By DAVID WOODING
 
PARENTS who keep their kids quiet with junk food and computer games have been blasted by a senior Labour MP.
Diane Abbott warned the rise of “McParenting” was putting the life chances of a generation at risk.
The shadow public health minister said children spent too much time eating chips, watching TV or on PlayStation 3.
She urged mums and dads to spend more time with their kids, giving love and healthy food before possessions.
Ms Abbott attempted to reclaim the families agenda for Labour in a major speech today.
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She said: “We all know that in 21st Century Britain, families come in all shapes and sizes.
“But what I want to warn about is the rise of what I call McParenting.
“Let me be clear what I mean by this phrase. Parents in Britain, of any class or colour, who substitute materialism for parental responsibility. Children who have PlayStation 3s, chips and locked bedrooms, when they should have fresh air, healthy food and warm family relationships.”
Ms Abbott believes too many people from all walks of life think parenting is about “things” – McDonald’s, tuition fees, video games, rather than engagement.
She told the Policy Exchange think tank: “It’s time we spoke up for family love.
“I want to talk about children who get chicken and chips for dinner from the take-away every evening. About the little boy locked away in his room, surfing the dark corners of the internet. About the father who has never been to the park or swimming pool with his daughter. About the mother who’s default position is to curse her son’s school, ahead of turning the television off at home once in a while.
“It cannot be a good thing that by the age of ten, the average British child recognises nearly 400 brand names.”
Ms Abbott wants action to support families, including legal protection for kids from junk food marketing.
She is also demanding teaching of practical cooking skills in schools, and more opportunities for families to get outdoors.
The MP later added: “I am right behind Jamie Oliver when he argues that this Government is a disaster for the health of British kids. The Government should listen to him.
“The Government’s entire strategy has become an expensive advertising programme for its friends in big business, and it’s just not good enough.
“Responsibility deals that rely on voluntary action by the fast-food business, manufacturers and retailers are failing. You cannot expect big business, which makes billions every year by marketing sugary, fatty and unhealthy foods, to willingly limit its own profiteering.”

Poppy pride…or posing?

By DAVID WOODING

REMEMBRANCE Sunday is 17 days away and already politicians seem to be racing each other to be first to wear a poppy.

A host of MPs were proudly – and perhaps a little ostentatiously – sporting one in their lapels during Prime Minister’s question time in the Commons today.

They are sold to honour brave troops killed in action since the First World War – and raise millions for the Royal British Legion’s charitable work.

But in recent years, the well-observed tradition seems to have taken on an unfortunate political edge.

Etiquette dictates that the poppy should be worn in the week leading up to Remembrance Sunday – on November 13 this year.

But Labour MPs today stole a march on the Tories with nothing short of a sea poppies on Opposition benches during Prime Minister’s questions in the Commons.

Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham chided: “Not a Tory on the front bench with a poppy.”

He tweeted: “They have been on sale in Parliament for days and large numbers have them. Surely wearing them encourages others.”

Isn’t this all a little unseemly? Nobody is forced to wear a poppy yet 26 million are sold every year raising an estimated £35 million for ex-servicemen, women and their families.

I’m sure that David Cameron and his MPs will all have bought and worn one before he lays a wreath at the Cenotaph next month.

Demanding the PM pins one to his jacket now is a bit like complaining he hasn’t sent his Christmas cards out by mid November.

No doubt nervous TV presenters will be pinning on a poppy fast lest they get a dressing down from righteous MPs.

Twisted

Channel 4 News man Jon Snow fiercely refuses to give in to what he calls the “poppy fascists” and appears on screen with bare lapels all year round.

While some may find his stance a little extreme, many believe it is unfair to criticise MPs for being poppy-free in October.

Mr Cunningham’s followers accused him of a “petty partisan attack” and “twisted point-scoring”.

Amy Jackson declared: “My father spent 37 years in the Army and always taught me to start wearing poppies on November 1.”

Blogger Harry Cole added: “You used the war dead to try to score a point against the government.”

So what is poppy etiquette? A quick check in Debrett’s guide to good manners says poppies can be worn from the end of October to Remembrance Sunday – but adds it is acceptable to wear them from November 1 or just the week leading up to that day.

The Royal British Legion would probably settle for that – and scowl at the blatant politicisation of the biggest event in their calendar. Besides, the vets’ organization hasn’t even launched this year’s poppy appeal yet.

What is your view on the “poppy police” and “poppy etiquette?” Please leave your comments below.