Monday 26 November 2007

Lost phone

I have just tried to report my lost mobile phone to Southwark Police - apparently I can't report it missing today because they've run out of forms! I just hope they don't have the same problem when it comes to real crimes.

Private Members Bills - what to choose?

The ballot for Private Members Bills took place last week and now the scramble is on amongst various campaigns and lobby groups to persuade those MPs who were fortunate enough to be drawn high up in the ballot to adopt their particular causes.

I spoke to one MP who told me that within seconds of her name being announced her office phone and fax started going absolutely mad. Every charity, every union, every political cause wants to meet with her.

She's faced with a tough choice - does she pick up one of the Private Members Bills from last session, which didn't become law, and have another go at pushing the same issue - things like the Temporary and Agency Workers Bill, the Disabled Persons (Independent Living) Bill, or the Disabled Children (Family Support) Bill? All worthy issues, but they've had a good airing and it's now up to the Government to take them up. Or does she choose a new issue, which hasn't yet been fully debated in Parliament, or at least not for a while?

She says she's thinking of doing the latter, with a bill which would provide for automatic organ donation, unless a person chooses to opt out. I think this is an excellent idea, given the shortage of organ donors and the number of people who don't carry a donor card but would probably be perfectly comfortable with the idea that they're helping someone else to live by donating their organs after death. I hope she goes for it.

Saturday 24 November 2007


I've been doing a little bit of homework on the Wisconsin model of welfare reform, much favoured by David Cameron's Conservatives these days.

Here's a chilling extract from a piece by Johann Hari in the Independent:

"Let's look at what happens to when you go into a benefits centre in Wisconsin to seek help. You will almost certainly be a woman with kids: 90 per cent of claimants are. You will be assigned a Financial and Employment Planner, who will show you a "ladder". The top rung is your goal: unsubsidised employment in the private sector. The next rung is subsidised work in the private sector, or a community service job created to provide the unemployed with something constructive to do. You will be matched up with one of these jobs. If you fail to turn up, you will be punished. For every hour you miss, you will be docked $5.15 from your benefits. If you don't turn up at all, you don't get anything. Then they'll tell you that having kids makes no difference. Unless you have a baby that is less than three months old, you have to work full-time in whatever job they assign you. Put your kids in daycare and get out there. Then they explain the real kicker. There is a federal time limit for benefits. In your entire life, you can only ever claim two years' worth of government help. Every week you receive government subsidy, the clock is ticking. Once your two years are up, you won't get any help, ever again."

It's left to the voluntary sector - to churches, food banks, homeless shelters and charities - to pick up the pieces. This seems to me to be pretty similar to what was being proposed by the Tories in the 1980s, although it's presented as new thinking. It's scary to think it could happen here.

Most lone parents in this country want to work. 57% of them already do. But sometimes circumstances make it incredibly difficult for them to stay in jobs - lack of childcare, lack of transport, lack of flexible working, needing to take time off to look after sick children, finding they're not actually better off in work when things like school meals and travel costs are taken into account. The Government will be tightening up rules soon, so that lone parents with a child over the age of 12 will be required to move from Income Support to Job Seekers Allowance; I support this, but we need to be sure that other elements of the package are in place - childcare, family-friendly employers, tax credits to boost in-work income, etc - before they're required to do so.

Alan Davidson

I'm sure Steve Reed won't mind me copying this from his website - he puts it much better than I could. I worked with Alan for just 6 months at the Labour Party, but was always running into him at Conference and other events. He was a really nice guy.

21 November 2007
My friend, Alan Davidson, was taken ill and died suddenly yesterday morning. I was shocked to hear the news this afternoon. Alan was just 43 years old and leaves behind his lovely wife Anna, a BBC radio journalist.

Alan was a long-serving member of the Labour Party in Streatham. He used to work full-time for the Labour Party before moving into public affairs first for an agency and more recently for Reed Employment. He was also a very active trade unionist. Alan was Labour to the core, believing that our party was the only way to secure the fairer society that he wanted to see. He was one of those people you could rely on to come and help whenever we were out on the streets campaigning in elections or to make life better for ordinary people.

I last saw Alan on Wednesday last week. He had some new ideas on how to develop a new generation of council candidates that represent the whole of our community. I’d seen him the Sunday before as well at the Remembrance Day service at Streatham War Memorial. It was a beautiful sunny morning and Alan, as was his way, had come wearing an eye-catching hat. He seemed in the best of health and spirits on both occasions. It’s shocking to think he’s been taken from us so unexpectedly.

Those of us who knew and loved Alan are finding it difficult to take in this shocking news. He seemed too young, too healthy, too full of ideas and life to be taken from us. He was warm, generous and thoughtful. He had plans for the future for himself and his wife that included hopes for a family of his own. All that’s been taken from him, and the rest of us are left wondering how best to mark and celebrate this lovely man’s life. It’s hard for all of us, but most of all our thoughts are with Alan’s wife Anna, and his parents and close family members. It’s always hard to say goodbye, but hardest of all when you weren’t expecting you’d have to.

Friday 23 November 2007

New poll on website

I've posted a new poll on the website, as the plastic bags poll seems to have been pretty conclusive in favour of a ban (and somewhat overtaken by events, with the PM's declaration this week).

This time I'm going for a range of options, on the question of whether there should be a tolerance zone for prostitution in Bristol. Not sure I've covered all the bases, but at least it gives some indication of why people are voting one way or another, which will be interesting.

Tuesday 20 November 2007

The missing discs

Obviously the news that two discs containing the personal data of millions of families have been lost in the post en route from HMRC to the NAO is appalling. But I don't see that Alistair Darling can in any way be held personally responsible. The policy was clear; the discs should never have been put in the post. A junior HMRC official breached the security provisions. The Chancellor could not by any stretch of the imagination be expected to have prevented this happening. At least the disks were password protected, and the chances of them falling into the wrong hands are slight, but the data should have been encrypted and, if discs needed to be sent anywhere at all, they should certainly not have been chucked in the internal mail. And it is entirely reasonable to ask whether a junior official should have been given access to such data by his or her bosses. No doubt we will find out more tomorrow.

Monday 19 November 2007

The PM join the plastic bags campaign

Interesting speech from the PM today on climate change.

It included an announcement that the Government is to convene a forum of supermarkets, the British Retail Consortium and others to look at how to reduce plastic bags to cut landfill waste. The PM says he is "convinced that we can eliminate single-use disposable bags altogether, in favour of long-lasting and more sustainable alternatives". Good stuff.

The UK gets ready for CHOGM

I've just been to a meeting with Mark Malloch Brown, to discuss the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting which will take place in Kampala this week. The Prime Minister is attending, along with David Miliband, Douglas Alexander, Shriti Vadera and Lord Malloch Brown himself in his role as Minister for Africa.

I asked him questions about progress on the peace talks in Uganda, and about Somaliland. (I hadn't realised that Vincent Otti, deputy leader of the Lord's Resistance Army is rumoured to have been killed by Joseph Kony, the LRA leader. Otti was renowned for calling local radio phone-ins from his hideout in the bush, which I thought quite bizarre, but it's the main form of communication in a country like Uganda, where literacy rates outside the capital are very low and few people read newspapers or own televisions).

Other asked Lord Malloch Brown questions about Bangladesh, Pakistan and Zimbabwe. I have to say, I thought he was very impressive; he's had a bit of a hard time in the press recently, as have some of the other Ministers brought in from outside to serve in the Brown government (the so-called GOATs, as in Government of all the Talents). But he clearly has a huge breadth of knowledge, gained from years of working at the UN. I think he's a real asset.

Farepak - one year on

I've just signed another EDM on Farepak:

That this House notes that over a year has passed since the Christmas saving company Farepak collapsed; further notes that the collapse forced many families into the arms of debt lenders who charge extortionate rates of interest; believes that the victims of Farepak are entitled to justice and that those responsible for the Farepak collapse should be held accountable for their actions; notes that many of the innocent victims of the Farepak collapse have not received any compensation; believes that compensation must now be made available; and calls on the Government to introduce legislation to ensure that a Farepak-style collapse cannot happen again and for the Government to publish the report into the collapse of Farepak.

A year ago, I joined many MPs in giving up one day's salary to help victims of Farepak pay for Christmas; I thought it was the least I could do. Not all Bristol MPs felt the same:

Hot! campaign

Bristol-based Viva! is launching its Hot! campaign tomorrow, highlighting the link between meat-eating and climate change with a series of billboards featuring Heather Mills. Will be interesting to see what impact, if any, it has on people's eating habits. There's also going to be a march through London on Saturday December 8th.

Sunday 18 November 2007

Westminster Hour

Have just been listening to a piece by Lesley Riddoch on the Westminster Hour, in which she was trying to work out who has the cushiest life - politicians in Westminster, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales. Speaking about Westminster she said, given the size of the Government's majority, turning up at votes is "optional". If that's true, no-one has told the Labour whips - we're on a three-liner every day this week.

She also seems to be under the impression that our working day consists solely of turning up for votes - which, if true, means I don't have to turn up for work until 10pm tomorrow, (that's if I can be bothered seeing as it's "optional"). She thinks MPs are on to a nice little earner - and yet she gets paid to turn out this kind of journalism.

Lib Dems take the gloves off

Just been watching an absolutely extraordinary spat between Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne on the Politics Show - I don't think I've ever seen two politicians from the same party go for each other like that, certainly not in a leadership contest.

Huhne was challenged over the publication by his campaign office of a pamphlet, "Calamity Clegg" and insisted he'd never seen it before (which I find astounding, if he hasn't) and he wasn't going to apologise for the contents of something he'd never seen. He could at least have apologised for the "Calamity Clegg" tag, but wasn't even prepared to go that far.

Clegg also got very cross with Huhne for allegedly misrepresenting his position on a whole range of issues, from Trident to taxation. Huhne's line is that Clegg is refusing to 'leave a paper trail' of his views on major issues, which hints that he wants to march the Lib Dems sharply in a rightwards direction if he wins.

All very entertaining, and worth watching on the Politics Show website if you didn't see it first time round.

Saturday 17 November 2007

Back the Kid launch

On Wednesday I hosted the parliamentary launch of the Back the Kid manifesto, which is campaigning for equal access to care and treatment for people with cystic fibrosis across the UK. (See One of my many nieces has CF, hence my interest.

At the event I met Joshua Jones, a young man with CF who has, despite his illness climbed Kilimanjaro to raise money for the CF Trust and has better lung function than most people his age. He's also a budding singer-songwriter - see to hear extracts from his new album. Although his songs aren't really my thing, he's got an undeniably great voice. (And is also a rather handsome young man!)

Polls and banning things

Well the good news is that Orange finally seem to have sorted out my broadband connection at home in Bristol. The bad news is that my website server seems to have gone down, or whatever the technical term is, so I can't do any updates today. (This blog is on a separate site - it has to be or I wouldn't be able to say anything too "political" on it - parliamentary rules!)

I am trying to think of a topic for my next website poll. Again, parliamentary rules dictate what topics are suitable. It has to be local, not national - the idea being, I think, that it's all about representing constituents, not about seeking support for a political platform. So I can't ask about the Climate Change Bill, or the extension of pre-charge detention, or raising the school leaving age ('though maybe if I ask would it benefit Bristol???).

The current poll on a ban on plastic bags is currently hovering around the 80-82% for/20-18% against mark, and the issue suddenly seems to be all over the media. Loads of towns - including our neighbouring authority of BANES and all 33 London boroughs are reportedly in favour of a ban. If Bristol wants to stake a claim to being the green capital of the UK, it needs to get its act together. (While it's quite obvious why people would support a ban, it would be interesting to know why they oppose it - is it because they think a tax on plastic bags would be better, or because they don't think it would achieve much, or because they're fed up with the Government banning things? Maybe I need a comments section on the poll.

I've been contacted by campaigners wanting a ban on foie gras in Bristol, as has happened in York, so that's a possible topic. The production of foie gras is already banned in the UK, but there is no prohibition on importing or selling it, and there is an argument that EU rules wouldn't allow us to do so. I've been writing to Ministers about it for a while, as I think there's a way round this, and have also written to the Council leader. Interestingly. Schwarzenegger has already banned the production and sale of it in California - I wonder if Cameron will be taking a steer from him on that too? Can't imagine it would go down too well with his aristocratic friends. (See for more info).

But I think I'm going to go with prostitution for the next poll., rather than another ban. Some people have suggested that a tolerance zone is the answer to Bristol's problems with on-street prostitution. I've been speaking to Fiona Mactaggart MP about this, a former Home Office Minister who has been doing a lot of research on the topic, and particularly on how they approach the problem in Sweden, where it is illegal to buy, rather than sell, sex. She tells me that in Amsterdam they're retreating on their 'tolerance' approach, and in Utrecht they've closed their managed zone.

When the idea of a tolerance zone has been discussed in Bristol in the past, they've suggested it should be along the Feeder, in my constituency. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, it's a long straight stretch of road, with a river running along one side and industrial units on the other. It's very isolated at night, and quite a distance from the areas where the prostitutes currently work. Would street sex workers - 95% of whom have a serious drug habit - actually move so far from places they could score drugs? I assume the area would be policed quite heavily, for the sex workers' safety, so would the dealers want to be seen down there? They wouldn't have any excuse for being there at night.

Fiona is bringing a Swedish politician over to Parliament soon, so will wait and see what I can learn from that. Will post the new poll later in the month.

Tuesday 13 November 2007

And yet more from Wednesday's debate

You will recall the speaker with his very own Routemaster bus - the one whose civil liberties had been so grossly violated by being fined for not paying the congestion charge.

I heard today that one of my Fabian comrades had asked him whether he ever had problems with people trying to board it? No, came the answer: he has "a man" to deal with that. Are these people real?

Sunday 11 November 2007

Creature Discomforts

I think Aardman are to be congratulated for getting involved with this:

It's an advertising campaign being launched by Leonard Cheshire, and aims to show disability in a more positive light.

Friday 9 November 2007

More from Wednesday night's debate

In the interests of fair play I should perhaps have said in a previous post that Dominic Grieve, in his closing remarks during the Bow Group/ Young Fabians debate, described my contribution as 'chilling' and 'Stalinist'. I think it was my use (twice) of the phrase 'the collective good' which sent shivers down his aristocratic spine, although I suspect he was actually just pretending to be outraged. I was arguing that perhaps it was the belief that individual rights sometimes had to be subsumed in favour of the collective good which distinguished Labour from the other two main parties (although as one of my comrades on the night pointed out, if you're democratically elected on such a platform it's hardly Stalinist).

As an aside - why is it politically acceptable to call someone Stalinist, but not to call someone a Nazi? (For the avoidance of doubt - I understand entirely why the latter's not acceptable!)

A long weekend in Bristol

I thought that spending an extra day in Bristol this week might mean I could take things at a slightly more leisurely pace but it was not to be. Left home 10.20am today; spent the morning at the Local Employer Partnerships launch with Peter Hain; arrived at the office at about 2pm for five hours worth of emails, post, phone calls, website; left at 7pm to pick up Paul Smith, Labour's candidate for Bristol West, so we could go to the Black Development Agency's AGM together; left there at 10pm after three hours of speeches, questions and networking; dropped Paul back home and took advantage of being in the vicinity of Tesco's to do a spot of late night food shopping; arrived home at 11.40pm, watched This Week, updated the website, put the shopping away...

I was meant to be visiting a couple of lottery projects tomorrow morning, but they had to reschedule at the last moment so I've only got a couple of appointments, then a Labour South West Regional Board meeting on Saturday, and a flying visit to London for Douglas' 40th birthday party, catching the late train so I'm back in Bristol in time for the Remembrance Sunday parade. On Sunday afternoon I'm going to write something for the Queen's Speech debate on Tuesday, on child poverty. Or at least that's the plan at the moment.

Thursday 8 November 2007

Interesting facts

I attended an event in my constituency today, taking advantage of a one-line whip in Westminster. It was the launch of Local Employer Partnerships in the South West, which basically means local employers working with Job Centre Plus to help fill job vacancies by providing advice, support and training to people who are currently on Job Seekers Allowance or incapacity benefit.

One of the first companies to sign up was First Bus. Their representative told the Work and Pensions Secretary, Peter Hain, that the company has spent £1.5 million on language training in Poland, so that they can bring Poles over to work in the UK. They simply can't recruit people to be bus drivers here. And yet unemployment in some parts of my constituency - including on the doorstep of the First Bus depot - is well above the national average.

We were also told that there are currently some 10,000 job vacancies in Bristol, 5,000 of which are registered with Job Centre Plus. With the new Cabot Circus retail development (or the new Broadmead, as most of us will persist in calling it), another 4000 jobs will be created. Unless there's a concerted effort to raise the employability, confidence and skills levels of local people, we're going to have real trouble filling them.

Another interesting fact - 40% of those claiming Incapacity Benefit are off work because of stress - so the chances are that with the right support going forward, and with the introduction of things like mentoring and work trials, which are in the Local Employer Partnership agreements, they'll be able to re-enter the labour market at some point.

Is Britain a free country?

I took part in a debate in Parliament last night organised by the Young Fabians and the Bow Group, with the latter proposing the motion "This House believes that Britain is a less free country under Labour". (In true Tory style they changed the title at the last moment without telling us, as we were expecting to debate "This House believes that Britain is no longer a free country".)

We were narrowly defeated, by forty-something votes to forty-something else (none of the three tellers could count properly), but seeing as everyone in the room had arrived with their minds completely made up before we started, it wasn't much of a reflection on the quality of the debate, which I think we won hands down. I was joined by Conor McGinn, from the Young Fabians and Tom Hamilton, from Mencap, and Dominic Grieve led for the proposers, with the predictable litany of the Human Rights Act, ID cards, CCTV cameras, abolition of jury trials for serious fraud cases, control orders, etc. I pointed out to him that people living in the Stapleton Road area in my constituency - dubbed 'the most dangerous road in Britain' by the Sunday People a couple of years ago - might actually welcome the freedom that CCTV cameras give them to go about their daily business without being mugged. Probably not such a pressing concern in Dominic's constituency, Beaconsfield, where the average income is nearly £75,000 a year, making it the wealthiest constituency outside London. As I also said in the debate, I don't think it's a coincidence that the libertarian wing of the Conservative party happens also to be well-heeled wing. If, like David Cameron, your family is worth £13 million, you don't need the economic and social freedoms that state intervention can bring - you can always go private.

The seconder of the motion, whose name escapes me, mounted a particularly spirited attack on the Government. Apparently pancake races are being cancelled because of the mounting cost of injury insurance! And - in a compelling example of just how despotic and tyrannical this Government has become - he told a hushed audience that he had received a penalty notice when he drove his own Routemaster bus through central London without paying the congestion charge. (N.B. He collects classic vehicles. He is not a bus driver. That probably did not need to be said). This was, he told us, a complete outrage - buses are legally exempt from the congestion charge! Our efforts to explain to him that the exemption was perhaps not introduced for his own personal benefit, but because buses generally speaking carry lots of people around who might otherwise be using cars, fell on deaf ears. Nor did he accept that the 'positive freedom' created for Londoners by providing cheaper, more reliable and in many cases free public transport, might outweigh this gross infringement of his personal liberty. I look forward to seeing him in Parliament one day.

The End Child Poverty campaign continues

I appreciate that last blog was probably of no interest at all to anyone except me!

Had a busy day today in Westminster, starting with a child poverty rally/ march through Whitehall. Must have been several hundred children and Save the Children supporters there, marching round the Treasury, with balloons and whistles, singing 'Oh my Darling' for Alistair's benefit.

We then convened at No. 11 Downing Street, where I chaired a Question Time type session with Government ministers. 25 children, aged from 6 to 16, were given the chance to put questions to Alistair Darling, Ed Balls, Peter Hain and Jane Kennedy. They asked about issues like housing, food, school meals, youth crime, and what the Government is doing to meet its child poverty targets.

The Chancellor confirmed that the Government is still absolutely committed to meeting the 2010 target of halving child poverty, even though it's going to be difficult. (It's a relative poverty target, which means that it gets harder to meet as the country becomes more prosperous and income levels rise). Lots of media interest too, which all helps to keep the issue on the political agenda.

Wednesday 7 November 2007


Just arrived back in Bristol after a few days in Westminster, to discover that my broadband still isn't working. I've moved flat but kept the same number - pretty easier to swap it over, you'd think. But they said 'up to 15 days' and not to call before the time was up.

With a sense of impending doom I waited 15 days, secure in my conviction that with sheer grinding inevitability I would absolutely still not have broadband by the end of it. I was right. So I called again. They'd 'discovered a fault on the line' which would take '5 working days' to fix. I tried to believe them. But now, 5 working days later - yup, it's still not working

It took me more than 6 months to get broadband set up at my previous home, mainly because I couldn't face calling Orange and spending endless hours on hold more than once a month, for no useful purpose. So now I'm using my not particularly reliable 3G datacard, which is prone to crashing at any moment (I also received a mailing from Orange, as an MP, this week, boasting how they've improved their wireless service in the Bristol area - it's not apparent tonight!) I will call them tomorrow and try to be as polite as possible to the person on the other end of the phone as, after all, it's not their fault. But why can't they - the company - just once, get it right?

Monday 5 November 2007

New poll on website

I've just changed the poll on my official website.

Having previously asked whether people supported the idea of having a Strategic Transport Authority for the Bristol area (yes by 88-12%), I'm now asking people whether they think Bristol should follow the example of Modbury, a town in Devon, and ban plastic bags.

17 billion plastic bags a year are given out to British shoppers, with the average shopper getting 5 new ones each week. Environmental campaigners say that there are as many as 100bn bags littering the world and clogging the seas.

They've already been banned in places such as Zanzibar, Taiwan and Bangladesh - where they were blocking drains and causing flooding - and now San Francisco has become the first US city to ban them. Brighton has already announced that it is aiming to be the first British city to do so.

In Ireland they've taken a different route: a 15p tax on plastic bags, has led to a 90% reduction in use.

So should Bristol follow in Modbury's footsteps? At the moment the poll stands at 75% in favour, but it's early days yet.

Sunday 4 November 2007

“Failing” schools

The announcement last week that the PM was giving failing schools five years in which to improve results, or face takeover or closure, has particular resonance in Bristol, where secondary schools have historically performed well below expectations. There has however been some real improvement in some schools serving my constituency. In 2005 the City Academy saw a 17% rise in the number of pupils getting 5 GSCEs or more, taking it above 50%, and it has consolidated this performance over the past 2 years. Last year it was Whitefield Fishponds’ turn to show a massive improvement, as they also managed a 17% rise, from 28% to 45% – and that’s before their brand new school opens next year.

Hidden within the PM’s statement were the following figures: in 1997 there were more than 600 schools where less than 30% of pupils got 5 good GCSEs; now only 26 schools fall into that category. But the figure is much higher when the schools are judged on the number of pupils who get 5 good GCSEs including Maths and English, with 670 schools still failing to make the grade.

The PM has therefore announced that these schools will face annual improvement targets, takeover by good local state schools, closure or transfer to academy status. The new Bristol Brunel Academy (formerly Speedwell school) will provide an early example of whether such an approach works. In 2007 only 30% of pupils at Speedwell got 5 GCSEs (which was up from 23% in 2006). They’ve now got a phenomenal new school, built under the Building Schools for the Future programme; they’ve got academy status; and they’re part of a federation with the high-performing John Cabot City Technology College, whose head teacher becomes Executive Head of both schools. Only time will tell whether this pays off, but the school is confident it will; there's a real sense of optimism now.


I’ve had a few cheeky texts and emails from people I know, asking if I’m enforcing my new queue-jumping rights in Parliament, following the Administration Committee’s decision that MPs should be allowed priority, which has caused no end of controversy. In fact, in the past fortnight not only have I been blatantly queue-jumped myself by a certain former Cabinet Minister’s researcher, but I’ve also been sworn at by one of the catering staff for getting in his way as he tried to replenish the salad bar in the Terrace CafĂ©. Did I complain? No.

It is actually a bit of a pain when you arrange to meet someone from an NGO or charity for a half-hour chat over a coffee and it takes 15 minutes to get served at the Despatch Box (the Portcullis House coffee bar), leaving not much time for business. But 111 MPs have signed Lembit Opik’s EDM against the new policy, and I’m one of them.

Saturday 3 November 2007

Extradition from Somalia

In what was otherwise undeniably a bad news day for the police on Thursday, they were to be commended for managing to extradite a suspect in the killing of PC Sharon Beshenivsky from Somalia to stand trial in the UK. That can't have been easy.

Flying in style - the Conservative way

Congratulations to Tom Watson for doing the digging on this...,,2204593,00.html

Film review

I finally got round to seeing the Joy Division film, "Control", the other night. It's very good and Sam Riley, who plays Ian Curtis, is excellent. The director, Anton Corbijn, somehow manages to conjure up the feeling of the late 1970s just by having the actors frequently use call-boxes or those telephones with big round dials. And it's shot entirely in black-and-white, which is how I remember the late 1970s/ early 1980s anyway. Definitely worth seeing.

AJ wins Stonewall award

Was pleased to see that Alan Johnson has just been given Stonewall's politican of the year award (along with Angela Eagle) for his stance on gay adoption, i.e. insisting that adoption agencies should not be exempt from new laws outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, which meant they couldn't refuse to place children with gay couples. He really stuck to his guns on this, in the face of considerable political opposition and hostility from some sections of the media. It was one of the reasons I backed him for deputy leader. He's also a firm defender of the view that children should not be discriminated against on the basis of their parents' marital status.