To live outside London and not drive a car is an exercise in resilience and stoicism. In the north-west of England, where I live, public transport exists mainly to drive people bonkers. If you’ve lived in London or the south-east, as I did for many years, the effects of extreme regional inequality are plain to see as soon as you step on to a bus or train.
Distances that took half an hour to cover in London can take three times as long and cost twice as much. I’m lucky: I can afford £2.40 for a single bus fare (as opposed to £1.50 in London). Yet everyday journeys on public transport are blighted by car-oriented planning, deregulation and a lack of investment, none of which apply in the capital. If that doesn’t illustrate how underinvestment reduces productivity and destroys quality of life, I don’t know what can.
To drive from the centre of Liverpool to the centre of Manchester using the M62 at 8am, you would need to allow two hours to travel 35 miles, such is the level of traffic congestion. If you go by train, it’s about 45 minutes – with one significant caveat: the trains have to be running, which can’t be guaranteed, with 30-year-old Thameslink castoffs and third-hand diesel engines forming the bulk of Northern Rail’s rolling stock. Last May’s timetabling fiasco, in which Northern Rail cancelled hundreds of daily services for weeks due to a lack of trains and staff, proved the extent to which the railway can’t be relied upon. Commuters would rather set out early and brave the jams than not arrive at work at all.
By contrast, if I want to travel to Skelmersdale, a mere 20 miles from my home, it’s a 25-minute drive or an eye-watering hour and 55 minutes by public transport.
As an avid family historian, I’m a great believer in memoirs and autobiographies. If your aged family members are capable, encourage them to give you a written piece on their life experiences. If that would be too difficult, encourage them to talk about their lives — the times they laughed until their sides ached, or when sadness overtook them, in fact, to tell you about everything, including what they remember about great uncle Fred.
I know, it’s not always easy in our busy lives to find time to sit and talk but, just remember, those frail relatives will probably not be around when you finally do have the time to spend with them. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard those researching their family trees say they wished they’d asked the questions. Please don’t be one of them. We often only develop an interest in our roots as we…
Today’s demo started rather hurriedly and to be honest I didn’t know if I was coming or going. This feeling was amplified because it was cold, rainy and my daughter was a bit fed up. understandable of course. But she soon settled down into our usual routine and all was well.
We are seeing a lot of new faces due to Stalybridge Jobcentre shutting. They don’t know us and what we are doing, and we don’t know them or their situations either. So we have to start from scratch, which at times isn’t easy. But it’s a whole lot harder for them.
I started a conversation with a man who had been previously attending Stalybridge Jobcentre for his appointments. The first thing that he said to me was that he couldn’t believe how rude the front desk staff are at Ashton Jobcentre, and how rude some of the advisors are also…
I briefly caught a snippet about this on the local news programme for the Bristol area on the Beeb, Points West. The video was posted on Youtube by the girl’s mothers, Sharon Forbes. It show her daughter, Savannah, tackling a speaker from National Action, who clearly says he’s in favour of an all-White Britain. Sharon Forbes then says that her daughter’s mixed-race, and so what would he and his party do with her? Deport her? The Nazi doesn’t have an answer, except to say, ‘She looks White to me?’ He then claims that Britain has always been a White country, to which Forbes says, ‘No.’ Eventually, the youthful Fascist retreats, and the girl and her mother are clapped and applauded by the crowd.
The Youtube video was put up four days ago, but it’s taken this time for the incident to make it on to the local news. I…
Mike over at Vox Political ran this story from the Groan, which reported the kind and courteous welcome Nick Gibb got when he spoke to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers at their conference in Liverpool. Of course, I’m being ironic when I say that it was ‘kind and courteous’. In fact that they jeered him. And I don’t blame them. What Gibb said was pure rubbish.
The Tories are, of course, determined to turn 17,000 primary schools in England into academies. Gibb made the usual attempt to try to justify this massive privatisation to the Tory party’s corporate backers by saying that it would lead to an improvement in quality. He told his audience of educational professionals that if they spoke to the headmasters, who had become heads of the academy chains, they would hear that academy schools were flourishing. Because they’re professionally led.
It’s not just Trump who is promoting a very anti-Muslim line in America. It’s also Ted Cruz, another far-Right Republican. Over on The Young Turks they’ve actually been debating who would be worse for America – Trump or Cruz. While Trump’s been talking about banning Muslims from entering America, for example, Cruz has actually been doing it. He’s behind a law to prevent, or at least limit, further Muslim immigration.
After the terrible attacks in Belgium this week, Cruz got up to recommend that there should be increased police patrols in Muslim areas. The Young Turks naturally took a dim view about that. Cenk Uygur, one of the Turks’ anchors, who is himself of Muslim Turkish heritage, said that while they were at it, why not move Muslim communities somewhere else, and create a ghetto. He was, of course, being bitterly ironic, but his attack does voice fears that what…
A family has won its legal bid to challenge limits on welfare payments to severely disabled children in hospital.
Benefits for Cameron Mathieson, five, stopped after he spent more than 12 weeks in Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool.
Supreme Court judges agreed the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had been “grossly unfair” when it stopped his payments after 84 days.
His family said they had continued the fight over Disability Living Allowance (DLA) “on behalf of other families”.
Cameron, from Warrington, Cheshire, died in 2012 after suffering from cystic fibrosis and Duchenne muscular dystrophy, among other conditions.
Speaking after the ruling, his father Craig said: “This decision is a fantastic legacy for Cameron.
“Cameron adored people and he would have been delighted to know that because of him, other vulnerable children and their families will not have to endure the same financial hardships we had to contend with while he was in hospital.”
The court was told payments were suspended in November 2010 when Cameron was three.
A panel of three judges concluded the Secretary of State’s decision “violated [Cameron’s] human rights under article 14 of the convention” and “acted unlawfully in making the decision.”
Analysis: Kathleen Hawkins, BBC News, Ouch
This decision will be celebrated by many disability campaigners, who have argued for a long time that disability benefits should continue while a person is in hospital.
They say that a disability does not simply stop when a person enters hospital, and the costs incurred by family members are often much higher during this time.
They also argue that for children the need for a continuing allowance during a hospital stay is crucial. Severely disabled children often have specific, individual needs that only parents may understand, and articulating these needs to hospital staff can be an important part of the care they receive.
Up until now, DLA has been payable to under-16s for the first 84 days of a hospital stay. It has two components – care and mobility – and in this case Cameron’s parents say they continued to act as full-time carers to their son.
It was estimated by children’s charities in 2013 that there were around 500 children affected by this rule every year, so this decision could signal a change in how funding is handled for these families too.
The family’s solicitor Mitchell Woolf, said: “While this judgment does not immediately apply to all similar cases, it enables around 500 families to seek the reinstatement of their DLA payments.”
He said his client lost his son in 2012 but “chose to fight for other families so they would not go through the hardship the Mathieson family faced when DLA was stopped.”
Stopping DLA leaves “other families unable to afford to visit and support their children, sometimes as they suffer a terminal illness,” he said.
In a joint statement, charity bosses Amanda Batten, of Contact a Family, and Dalton Leong, of the Children’s Trust, said: “It is a significant victory for the Mathieson family who have fought tirelessly on behalf of some of the most severely disabled children in the UK who require hospital treatment.”
Both groups, who have campaigned on the matter, said they were “delighted” the Supreme Court had recognised it was “unfair to remove disability benefits from the most sick and disabled children when they need it most.”
It was “welcome news for families of disabled children across the UK,” they added.
A DWP spokesman said: “The government recognises the difficult situation faced by parents and families where a severely disabled child requires a long stay in hospital for treatment.
“Up to now, DLA has been suspended when a child is in receipt of long-term NHS in-patient care in order to prevent double provision – the taxpayer paying twice for the same thing. This has been the case for more than 20 years.”
The spokesman added: “We are considering the judgment carefully.”
Tony Blair quit as Middle East Peace Envoy on Wednesday, a role the former British prime minister has held since he left Downing Street in 2007. The statesman, who represented the US, Russia, the UN and the EU in the region, will step down next month after fulfilling his “outstanding commitments,” according to the BBC.
But what will Tony do next? Here are five jobs the 62-year-old might want to consider…
Following a raft of arrests over allegations of corruption, FIFA could soon be looking for a man to replace Sepp Blatter. Blair proved he could cozy up to bullies and autocrats in his dealings with Rupert Murdoch and Colonel Gaddafi. He could likewise schmooze dictators and tyrants to sell off hosting duties for future world cups. North Korea 2026! Football’s coming home…
Blair may be universally reviled for his role in the Iraq War, but this is nothing compared to the scorn Liverpool fans are currently pouring on Brendan Rodgers after the Northern Irishman guided the Reds to a 6-1 defeat at Stoke last weekend. Could Tony take over the Anfield hot seat? His experience trying to broker peace in the Middle East might be useful for Raheem Sterling’s contract negotiations. Plus, his team would almost certainly play down the centre…
Boris Johnson has enjoyed successive mayoral terms in the capital despite having almost nothing in common with most Londoners. Blair too could employ his public school disdain for the hoi polloi in a new role at City Hall. The former PM might baulk at being pushed down a zip line, but you can guarantee he’d like to have an airport named after him…
Labour Party Leader
Whatever slights we throw at Blair, the man knew how to win elections. That’s a knack in scare supply within the Labour Party’s current hierarchy. Could Blair make a dramatic return to frontline British politics? New New Labour? Unfortunately for the former PM, his role in opposition might be curtailed by incarceration should themuch-delayed Chilcot inquiry find him guilty of war crimes.