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Thursday, 25 December 2008

Happy Christmas!

From Father Christmas, and me!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Keeping it Local

On Saturday, the village of Westbury-on-Trym united in promoting shopping locally. There were all sorts of special deals on offer for those who chose to do their Christmas shopping in Westbury, instead of joining the traffic queues and crowds of shoppers at the Mall or Cabot Circus.

St.Peter's Hospice shop was giving away sustainable shopping bags with every purchase above £5, there was a prize draw in Cafe Interlude and the community worked together to promote its local stores.

As the credit crunch hits, it is not only high profile and much-loved chains like Woolworths that are casualties - small, family run businesses that make our high streets personal and interesting will be struggling as well. To put it simply, we've got to use 'em or lose 'em.

And on a day when traffic was gridlocked to the Mall and friends tell me the place was swarming to the point of paralysis, I was very glad to be supporting my local shops, with space to breath!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

A new tradition is born ...

It started as a bright idea by Sue and Mike Drysdale of Kondi cafe, on Henleaze road.

It turned into a Christmas Fayre extraordinaire to rival the best Germany has to offer. Henleaze Fayre was a raging success, with a big wheel, countless crafts and charity stalls, mulled wine, candy-floss and free mince pies -which I am enjoying here, next to the Henleaze Library stall.

It was a real family event, running from 3pm right through the evening till 9pm, and there really was something for everyone.

I hope I am not putting undue pressure on Sue and Mike when I say the fayre had all the hallmarks of a long-standing tradition in the making. A wonderful community event, thank you.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

No to Henleaze School Amalgamation!

Thanks to the intense lobbying, and gathering of petition signatures, local campaigners, headed by Liz Radford (pictured) have managed to get a halt on the proposed amalgamation of Henleaze infant and primary school.

The halt is a triumph for parent power - a campaign run by parents, for parents - and with success.

However, an amalgamation is not completely off the cards - this is simply a delay to the decision. I'll be supporting parents in their campaign when decision time comes.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

We are not terrorists, Mr.Brown

One of the most astounding things about the incredible arrest of Damian Green MP, is that it was handled by the terror - sorry, anti-terror- police. It reminded me that Gordon Brown used anti-terror legislation to freeze the assets of the Icelandic Bank. Has Stalin Brown finally replaced the less dangerous Mr. Bean version?

Read my Guardian Blog HERE

Monday, 1 December 2008

Harmony at Christmas

If I can get the technology right, you'll soon have the chance to hear this lot sing.

These are the ladies' Barbershop choir, and they put on a superb Christmas fayre in Westbury-on-Trym on Saturday.

But it was their singing that impressed me most- and the fact that the singers spanned so many generations.

It's Christmas, so I am allowed to be a bit clich├ęd - but wouldn't it be great if this kind of harmony could exist across the generations more often?
Now bear with me, while my computer labours to upload a shaky video...

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Count-Down to Christmas kicked off in style

Christmas began yesterday. It began with a flurry of Christmas fayres and for me, culminated in the glorious SCAF Christmas Dinner at Kingsweston House.

The evening began with mulled wine and carols in the main hall, before we sat down to a meal of pate and toast, and a very full Christmas dinner buffet. You couldn't find better surroundings, and the whole thing cost just £15, thanks to the generosity of Kingsweston House, and their support for the community. Kingsweston House is one of the jewels of Bristol's heritage. It is easy to forget what an amazing piece of history sits on our doorsteps, and looking at the extraordinary restoration job that John Hardy, the owner, has done, easy to forget how close the house came dereliction in 1995.

The wonderful evening, and the venue, also marked a fitting end to another year of tireless work from Ash Bearman, David Thomas and all those who make SCAF such a proactive community organisation.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Is Bristol City Council allergic to excellence?

Amazing. In its mission to improve and provide facilities for young people in the city, Bristol City Council wants to cut funding from what should be the jewel in its crown, the nationally acclaimed Bristol Broad Plain Boys Club and Riverside Youth Project. Why? Because they don't like the name, and say it doesn't do enough to bring in girls. Despite the club's inclusion of girls in its activities. It's almost as if the City Council is allergic to excellence... Read my Guardian blog about it HERE

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Waking the sleeping giant: Getting Bristol Back On Track!

On Friday 21st, members of FOSBR gathered at Wilder House, home of the West of England Partnership, to issue a rallying cry for funding for a Portishead-North Bristol Rail Loop line to be included in the bid for Government funding.

As one railway worker put it, Bristol railway network is a sleeping giant. There is a railway infrastructure running in and around the city, with disused stations like Henbury just waiting to be used. With 2,500 houses planned for the area just North of Henbury, as part of a 33,000 house building plan in the area; with Bristol Zoo development to take place at the top of Blackhorse Hill - having a railway service across North Bristol is a no-brainer.

I will be writing to the Chair of the South West Regional Assembly to make the case for the line, and hopefully members of other political parties will be doing the same. It's time for the sleeping giant to wake up. It's time to get Bristol back on track.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Lockleaze Primary Cinema hit!

Yep, that's a pop corn machine in the corner. It's all in preparation for Lockleaze Primary School's screening of "Kung Fu Panda" , on Tuesday evening. The school organised the cinema event to bring parents and their children together, and to make the school more of a heart of the community.

The evening was a storming success. I helped out on the door. Tickets had sold out, and over 90 people came to enjoy jacket potatoes, soft drinks, the film - and of course, pop corn. The evening was enjoyed by parents, children and siblings alike. Hopefully this will be the start of many more similar evenings at Lockleaze Primary and across schools in Bristol.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Lamplighters Roast - one of Bristol's best kept secrets

...If you carry on down Hung road, on the south side of the Portway, you find the superb Lamplighters Pub.

There's something a bit other-worldly about the Lamplighters as you walk down to it - it's so unexpected and has an aura of real history about it. And as you walk outside, you find yourself over looking the mudflats of the estuary, fishing boats, and the club house of Shirehampton Sailing Club.

But they also do a really superb roast - pictured, steaming away merrily, here. Its so good, you'll note my eyes have turned red with anticipation. No mean slices of meat, they serve a half chicken, dripping in gravy, with all sorts of veg, and two kinds of potatoes. And as I was ordering, the bar staff brought bowels of Yorkshire pud bits out as bar snacks for customers.

As we all become ever more health conscious, I commend to you the health values of the great British Roast - full of protein, and I should think this plate contains a hefty proportion of my 5-a-day. Healthy eating doesn't have to be depressing looking salads, as this meal shows. Our great British roast is as healthy a meal as any! Long may it reign in our pubs!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Remembrance Sunday - a poppy is only the beginning

In the cold drizzle at the war memorial in Westbury on Trym, I laid a wreath this morning.

I think Remembrance Sunday is one of the most sobering and significant days of the year. My granddad fought in the second world war and was awarded the Military Cross for bravery. Unthinkable numbers like him died in performing extraordinary acts of bravery and sacrifice.

Sometimes I worry that the easy wearing of a poppy (costs around a pound or so, depending on how generous you feel) can become a substitute for thinking hard about what it, and the day, actually signifies.

It signifies remembrance for those who gave their lives so we can enjoy the life we live today. It signifies recognition of a generation who lived and fought in their own various ways through two bloody world wars not so very long ago. And it signifies remembrance and respect for our armed forces fighting today, and those lost in recent conflicts.

But as we nationally stand round our war memorials, wearing poppies and listening to Elgar's Nimrod or the the last post , our armed forces are struggling in Iraq and Afghanistan with out-of-date equipment, inadequate investment and insufficiently protected vehicles.

At home, pensioners, some of whom lived and fought through the second world war, are living on the breadline or below, with their pension funds robbed by Gordon Brown, and now struggling with interest rate cuts and fuel heating bills. Old people who survived the blitz will be struggling to live through the credit crunch.

Equipping our armed forces for the conflict to which the Government has committed them and supporting our elderly and giving them the recognition they deserve for seeing this country through its darkest hours are the true emblems of remembrance for our war dead.

If we are not prepared to protect our armed forces by providing them with proper equipment, and if we are not prepared to protect and look after our elderly and veterans today - by providing residential wardens where they are needed, and ensuring that 'independence' does not simply mean 'on your own', - wearing a poppy is little more than simply sticking a red bit of card on the lapel.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Don't slam the coffin-lid on the future of Bristol rail!

.........It all makes sense. The city is gridlocked in traffic, we face a potential congestion charge that will hit the poorest hardest, just when fuel prices are rising and families are struggling to pay the bills. Everyone is looking for a long-term solution to the ever increasing traffic, and Bristol's reliance on the car.

So Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways are mounting a campaign, which I have been supporting, to reopen the existing and derelict Henbury station, as part of a projected Portishead and Henbury loop passenger/ freight line.

So it was with amazement and dismay that we discovered that far from resurrecting disused stations as part of a plan to get Bristol and Britain greener and moving again, the Government has sold-off Henbury station, as part of sell-offs of stations across the country. This is in effect slamming the coffin-lid on the future of local rail infrastructure. It is tragically short sighted, and little short of madness.

However, the battle is not over yet. I, and members of FOSBR and local campaigners will contest the grounds of the sale of Henbury station in a bid to keep hope alive for a rail system for the area. Particularly since in the same breath, the Government is planning two and a half thousand houses in the area just north of Henbury. You would think that re-opening Henbury station would actually be a priority, given the huge extra burden on the roads that this development would entail. That's why we'll fight so hard against the grounds of the sale, and for the resurrection of a local rail infrastructure Bristol can be proud of.

There are two things you can do to help!
1. Get in touch with FOSBR ( or call 0117 9428637) to see how you can sign one of their postcard campaign cards

2. Come to the rally on 21st November, at Wilder House, Wilder Street, Bristol BS2 8P where FOSBR and local campaigners will be making their voice heard and lobbying James White, the Group Leader of Transport Policy at the West of England Partnership.

Come and speak out for a long-term vision for Bristol Transport.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Guardian blog update - Bullying isn't funny

The tough stance taken on the Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross BBC Radio 2 Broadcast is an important stand against bullying and for the forgotten value of empathy.

Read my Guardian blog

Monday, 13 October 2008

5-nil at home... but Shirehampton F.Cs got potential for more...

This is the house that Jack built.

Well, not Jack. And it's not a house. It's the Shire F.C clubhouse. And Jack didn't build it. Pete McCall did, ( pictured, on the right) with some help from others in the club, ( Like Mark Stockham, on my left) and some friends who helped provide the decking, and wives who helped advise on what nice ladies toilets look like!

It would have taken a council many fathoms of paper-work and planning to build something like this. Members of Shire F.C did it in a fraction of the time, for a fraction of the cost, with no payment, in their own time. Impressive and really quite humbling that people should give up so much of their time and resources to build facilities for the younger generation. It really sets the standard for the rest of us.

When I went to see the club play at home, it was a lovely autumn day ( one of the ones we should have had in August) and Shire F.C annihilated the opposition 5-nil. We celebrated with BBQ-ed burgers ( left over from the dismal summer) and a beer on the decking outside the club in the late autumn sun.

The club has got so much going for it - a dynamic welcoming group of club-members supporting it, superb club-house and facilities, lovely grounds, and it's one of the few community amenities still left to Shirehampton now. But as the chairman Pete, Mark and Kelvin, the club president told me, they want to take the club to the next level. Floodlights, for example would enable them to compete on a different level all together.

This is a group with ambition, a vision for Shire and its youth, who deserve masses of support.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

One of life's little luxuries

There was a significant moment during one university vacation when I made the decision to pack away the SNES. ('Super Nintendo Entertainment System'.) It was a choice between doing ok in my looming exams, or battling my way through three more Labyrinths in the SNES version of the classic game 'The Legend of Zelda' before I went back. I like to think I did the right thing and removed the offending console to its box, where it stayed more or less ever since.

But thanks to a friend's recommendation, I recently stumbled upon this 80s gaming website - a feast of early console games for the gaming glutton. Life's more demanding outside university and time wasting really isn't an option. But it does provide, I find at least, an occasional dose of one of life's little luxuries every now and again...! Happy gaming for anyone who shares the same memories!

Friday, 10 October 2008

Lockleaze Primary - bringing Lockleaze together

One of the memories that sticks out for me as a child was being taken to what was then called a "Rumpus Room". I faintly recall the one my parents took me to was somewhere in Bristol and was called "Mr. B's". Does this ring any bells with readers?

It was amazing. You could throw yourself about all over the place and jump around a padded room a lot with a load of padded big objects. Which, for some reason when you're anywhere between 3 and 8 years old, is virtually heaven. I remember pestering incessantly to go to Mr.B's which attained almost mythological status in my 5-year old eyes.

So it was with those memories in mind, that I visited Lockleaze Primary School and their new soft-play area. They described how successful the soft-play area has been and told me of their ambitious, but hugely exciting plans to create a soft-play cafe, in the school grounds.

The whole idea of the cafe would be to provide somewhere for children and young parents to come and have fun and socialise - whether by jumping around in a padded environment with colourful toys, ( the children) or having a nice cup of coffee and a chat while the children let off steam. It would continue the work (already successfully underway) by the school to become a real heart of the community, instead of simply a school building open from 9am-4pm. And it would also become a base for other services to come and meet parents ( eg. advisory services, support services etc) instead of parents having to go to find them.

The Head teacher, Gareth Simons, has already begun transforming the school. I look forward to watching progress and supporting wherever I can in the future!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

From Girders to Gym.. continued....

And here's where it all begins to look like something recognisable. I'll try to keep you posted with progress right up until the new gym's opening... well done to Garry Cave and the team.

From girders to great stuff- Boxing Gym Progress

This is the next stage what happened to the girders below ( see previous blog post...) as the new Avonmouth National Smelting Boxing Club gradually takes shape. For a full photo gallery of the progress, have a look at their website.
The whole thing has been erected by Garry Cave, and parents of children at the club. Very impressive. I offered a helping hand with the girders, but given my incompetence at things like this, it’s probably a very good thing that Garry and his team politely declined!

Friday, 3 October 2008

Boxer Nathan's high hopes

Nathan Snow, his dad Kelvin and I went on BBC Radio Bristol this morning to talk about the new gym that Avonmouth National Smelting Boxing Club is opening in Patchway.

Although Patchway is not quite in my patch ( no pun intended, if that can be called a pun) I was really pleased that the brilliant work that coach Garry Cave and his team do at the National Smelting club in Avonmouth can be spread further afield to adults and children at Patchway and Patchway School.

Talking about the benefits of boxing with me this morning was Nathan Snow. Nathan is one of the National Smelting Club's rising stars. He coaches at the new Patchway boxing club and has already represented the West of England.

For anyone who still doubts the benefits of amateur boxing, I recommend they talk to someone like Nathan. Nathan epitomises the good manners, self-control and inspiring ambition that is found in amateur boxing clubs all over the city and all over the country.

Nathan has his own website, and is looking for sponsorship for his very promising career. If you would like to get involved in helping Nathan make it to the very top, go to his website:

BBC Radio Bristol presenter Richard Wyatt gets very excitied about his guests - Nathan and Kelvin Snow...

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Prince's Trust 25 Years Celebration

This evening I went to a celebration of 25 years of The Prince's Trust Business Programme, hosted by ITV West's Lisa Aziz.

It was a remarkable evening. I had not realised just how much work the Prince's Trust does in launching young people with talent and ideas, but without financial or personal backing, into the world to fulful their potential.

One of the most impressive things about the programme is that it does not patronise young people, but asks them to pay the Trust back as they earn their money and get on in the world.

Not only does the scheme make social and moral sense, it also makes financial sense. We were told how one estimate puts the cost of socially excluded young people at £4m per week, just for this area. Many socially excluded young people may have found it hard to excel in the restrictive environment of school, but are natural entrepreneurs in the tough world outside the school gates.

We met several young people whose lives had been turned around by the Prince's Trust business programme - Celestine Walcott-Gordon started the evening off with a rendition of 'feeling good' that could have been sung by Nina Simone herself.

Then we heard from Paul Bradley who suffered from mental illness after a time serving in the forces in Afghanistan, Macedonia and Northern Ireland, and who wasn't sure how to make his way in the world, but now is forging a name for himself as a successful entertainer under "Ginger Enterprises".

We met Rob Law, a dragons den reject who, thanks to a Prince's Trust grant, went on to found 'Trunki', and JoeBurke who runs "Thirst Solution" . Best known product: a backpack which carries 21litres of liquid - ideal for a party, or for distributing drink, tea, coffee etc at big events. He now has international contracts.

I also talked to Lorna Knapman, (in the photo) who is filling the market gap for healthy food for children, 'Bitesize' and runs the new 'Love Food' Festival. As more evidence sugguests that diet may be partially responsible for rising levels of ADHD, not to mention obesity, Lorna has really hit on something big.

These are people who didn't give up, had a lot to give, but needed an initial helping hand financially, and moral support from The Prince's Trust mentors. All I met were so grateful to the trust and committed to helping others like them forge a path to fulfillment and success.

But ... they still have a £500,000 funding gap. If you feel you can help, you can make a donation at - You can be certain it will be money multiplied, not wasted.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Bristol comes to Birmingham for Conservative Conference!

Our very own sub-postmaster from Westbury-on-Trym post office was invited up to Birmingham to the Conservative Party Conference this week to talk about how the role Post Offices and particularly the Post Office Card Account plays for so many people. Having campaigned so hard on this issue locally, I was very pleased to hear it raised nationally.

But it was a bit of a Bristol conference, because only days later, Dennis Stinchcombe MBE, - who's in the photo with me outside Birmingham International Conference Centre here - was invited to talk address the conference on the issue of crime and anti-social behaviour - and preventing it.

I have blogged elsewhere about Dennis' brilliant work at Broadplain Boys Club and Riverside Project. The great thing about Dennis is that he tells it like it is. He gave a great talk, and all politicians would do very well to listen to what he has to say, because Dennis doesn't talk theory - he talks about what works. And as with most successful projects, there's less talking than doing. That's a lesson to us all.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Winning Cakes at Macmillan's Big Stir

It's a sign of a food-focused youth that I won the "Guess the Weight of the Cake" competition at Macmillan's Big Stir coffee morning at Brentry Scout hut, today.

Successful guessing of weights of cakes demands concentration, the closing of eyes, and a youth spent destroying the kitchen with flour and eggs, creating vague, sugary concoctions which tasted so much better for the mess made before.

The coffee morning was a huge success. The sunshine brought the people in and a good time was had by all. Many thanks to all who made it such a success.

The weight of the cake, for reference, was 2lb 11 oz. My kitchen-centered youth was evidently not mis-spent...

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Bright Future for Shirehampton's new academy!

Today Carrie and David Grant, of Fame Academy - er, fame - helped open the new Brightstowe Academy, sponsored by The Oasis Trust.

For anyone who hasn't been following the progress - Brightstowe is the new Academy that has replaced Portway School. There was an incredible sense of optimism which pervaded the entire event. But as the Steve Chalke, who runs The Oasis Trust, pointed out - dreams and optimism are not enough. You need determination and action to turn your dream to a reality.

And if reports from the parents and pupils I have spoken to are anything to go by, that action has already started. I sat next to parents of a boy in year 8 during the presentations, and they commented on how the new system of dividing the school into houses was working to unite the school in healthy competition.

I also spoke to Courtney, who was celebrating her 13th birthday and guided me round the new school. She told me how the place simply felt different, and what a difference having classroooms of new, fast computers and a good science lab makes. But, as you can hear from Carrie and David, it's not simply a question of throwing money at the place. It's about inspiring each one of the pupils to achieve their best.

And the school is immensely lucky to have Julie Winterman continuing as head teacher - providing an invaluable sense of stability and experience.

Over the past years, Shirehampton has been stripped of so many of its facilities. It was heartening to see such drive and determination to succeed focussed on Shire and Avonmouth. At end of the event, we all went outside to let fly hundreds of biodegradable balloons into the sky - and I think all of us were hoping for a soaringly successful future for Brightstowe. With a team like that in place, ready to work hard to thrive, there is every sign that the new academy really will fly high.
The sky's the limit for Brightstowe Academy...

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

5 Years of SCAF! ( and a bit more)

The SCAF ( Shirehampton Community Action Forum) AGM was a bit more than just an AGM - it was a celebration of 5 years ( though probably a bit more) of the organisation formally functioning, and we all enjoyed a buffet, courtesy of Kingsweston House, afterwards.

This is such an efficient and dynamic community group that it is easy to forget that the members are not all highly paid professionals. And what really came home to me during the meeting is that community groups like this can represent their local area in a way that politicians seldom can. They are in touch with their community because they are made up of their community, and are not bound by the politics of politics. Organisations like SCAF demonstrate so clearly that the state really cannot manage everything - and that nothing can replace local groups, made up of proactive, concerned residents. Everything should be done to allow groups like SCAF to thrive.

Another date for your diaries - The SCAF Christmas dinner is on November 29th, at Kingsweston House - just £15 for a sumptious meal in one of the best dining locations in Bristol. You can't say fairer! You can get tickets from Ash Bearman at Shirehampton Hall. (email: )

Sunday, 31 August 2008

A lick of paint for Sea Mills Community Centre

When the rain finally stopped, our staunch team got to painting up the Sea Mills Community Centre. It's a great facility, and a real asset to the area - but all the better for removing several dodgey looking old sofas, a prehistoric printer, some ancient art-work and an array of odd plastic items that no one could quite identify.

The team, lead by Siobhan Kennedy-Hall, managed to construct the scaffolding in the picture, paint several inside walls and most of the back wall in one afternoon. And polish off some sausage rolls and tarte tartin. ( Only the best.) Brilliant work, everyone. I've not had so much fun in ages. I still can't get the paint from under my nails...

ps. a date for the diary - the Sea Mills Community Centre barn dance, on September 19th. If the catering for the hard workers here is anything to go by, it's not to be missed...

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Why I love our British sense of humour

It's an English August, time for cricket and teas and things like that, known affectionately by politicians and journalists as the silly season. And on that note, I have just been emailed THIS

I know, I know: it's old news now, the famous corpsing episode where Jonathan Agnew describes Ian Botham's stumble over his own stumps as ... " just couldn't quite get his leg over" - but there is just something so brilliantly British about the great Brian Johnston's desperately resisted and sturdily refined collapse into hysterics. I defy you to listen to it without laughing. The silly season comes but once a year - enjoy it. Even if our cricket pitches are still flooded.

This is filed under 'election losing jokes'. I think it might be quite obvious why...

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Confession: I'm not Gordon Brown

Ok, ok, I admit it - I have taken a holiday. This summer I took a couple of weeks off to go down to Cornwall with my family. People can make you feel a bit guilty about taking a holiday, but I think it's vital. If you don't ever take your foot off the accelerator and take some time out to reassess things, I think you can end up going a bit nuts. Like Gordon Brown.

So, for the summer holidays, here's - not an uber-political blog post- but one of my favourite poems about the British sea side. It's by John Betjeman, who loved the coast of North Cornwall, as I do. But alas, I can't write poems about it like this: It's 'Winter Seascape', which , as anyone who has been down to Cornwall this summer will know, has been sadly appropriate for the summer holidays this year.

Winter Seascape
by John Betjeman
The sea runs back against itself
With scarcely time for breaking wave
To cannonade a slatey shelf
And thunder under in a cave.

Before the next can fully burst
The headwind, blowing harder still,
Smooths it to what it was at first
-A slowly rolling water-hill.

Against the breeze the breakers haste,
Against the tide their ridges run
And all the sea's a dappled waste
Criss-crossing underneath the sun.

Far down the beach the ripples drag
Blown backward, rearing from the shore,
And wailing gull and shrieking shag
Alone can pierce the ocean roar.

Unheard, a mongrel hound gives tongue,
Unheard are shouts of little boys;
What chance has any inland lung
Against this multi-water noise?

Here where the cliffs alone prevail
I stand exultant, neutral, free,
And from the cushion of the gale
Behold a huge consoling sea.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Have your say on what the Robin Cousins Centre will offer

At last - after getting Robin Cousins on-side to lend his weight to the campaign, and a petition to get the centre opened with all speed, can it really be that light is at the end of the tunnel for the Robin Cousins Centre?

I have been working with the purchaser, police-recruitment officer Ian Moore, who will hopefully be running the building for the community, to find out what local residents want to happen in the new Robin Cousins Centre.

The idea is that it will be a facility for local people, so it makes sense that local people decide what they want from it. If you live locally and will use the Robin Cousins Centre when it is re-opened, fill in our on-line survey HERE.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Read my Guardian Blog on Knife Crime

Read my Guardian blog today on Knife Crime HERE

by the time the child is clutching a knife, ready to stab, they have already been drilled to know that if they do something bad, there will be no real consequences, apart from some desperate hand-wringing from society and a few emotional videos to tell them not to do it again.

Boxing for discipline, courage, fitness and success

This poster sums up why amateur boxing is such a great sport.

Tyler 'Tiger' Davies is one of Avonmouth National Smelting Amateur Boxing Club's promising young boxers, and this poster is a bid to gain sponsorship to pay for his equipment and personalised gear.

But I thought it summed up well the driving force behind amateur boxing: Read the small print - 'courage - fitness, respect -discipline, team-work - self control'.

Local sports clubs instilling values like this are worth any number of top-down initiatives. I was struck at their awards ceremony on Friday how the boys really embodied these virtues. One of the awards was for the 'Boxers' boxer' - someone selected by the boys to get a special award. The boys huddled together for no more than 30 seconds, and unanimously , and without argument, selected someone from amongst them to get the prize. That kind of teamwork, humility and respect was an impressive demonstration of the values the Smelting club upholds and instills in its boxers.

The National Smelting Club puts on several shows throughout the year - I'd encourage anyone who reads this to check out their new website and go along to see our local boxers in action.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Work begins on a bigger boxing gym...

Humble beginnings for Avonmouth National Smelting Amateur Boxing Club's new extended gym.

Thanks to the hard work of coach Garry Gave (pictured, with me, delighted about the girders), Roger Eady, the club, and with support from myself, the club has won a bid for over £60k from Sport England to build a much needed extension gym.

You can just about see the present gym in the background. It's that green building that looks like a garden shed. Garry trains over 30 young boxers in there, with numbers swelling all the time.

With any luck, the gym should be open at the end of the year. This blog will attempt to follow the progress from girder to gym... watch this space!

Monday, 7 July 2008

Read my Guardian Blog on saving the NHS

Read my latest Guardian blog on keeping the NHS on-target, but off-targets HERE

But while the ministers devise ever more targets to meet the success rate that they want for their headlines, and to fix their statistics which they can fire out in PMQs, the purpose of the NHS is deviating away from making patients get better, and towards making ministers feel better.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Lions hand-over a roaring evening. (cringe. sorry.)

That's an appalling pun - but I'm afraid it was a roaring evening. Bristol Brunel Lions ( with Bradley Stoke Lions) had their annual hand-over dinner. Lion John Taylor handed over his chairmanship to Lion Bill o'Neill, and I was inducted as a member - and as promised, it didn't hurt a bit.

It's hard to grasp the extent of the Lions Club international and the work it does. Amongst its achievements:

  • Thousands being able to see better by way of our used spectacle collections.
  • Many children having a holiday for the first time.
  • Parents of terminally ill children receiving respite.
  • Hundreds of children learning to read/write via "Schools in a Box" sponsored.
  • Enabling local children to learn with specially adapted computers.
  • Thousands feeling more secure due to their "Message in a Bottle" scheme.
  • Many smiling faces, children and parents, due to our Carol Float.
  • Great social events with shedloads of fun and fellowship.
Bristol Brunel Lions are in their 39th year. They've done huge amounts of work in that time- but you know what they say... life begins at 40. Roar-on.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Read my latest Guardian blog

Read my latest Guardian blog on Henley HERE

The story that got squeezed out of the national headlines is that even with Labour leaking votes at an astounding rate, in the southern seats they set their sights on so hard, the Liberal Democrats are getting squeezed - not only out of the headlines, but increasingly out of the ballot box.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

The British Raj in Westbury on Trym

If I'm glowing slightly in the photo, and have chronic red-eye, it's possibly because I've just enjoyed a good hot Madras, full of flavour.

I went into The British Raj ( Passage Road, W-o-T) after an evening out canvassing in particularly miserable weather. (It's hard to look 'parliamentary' through a fine drizzle/steady rain, when your hair's adhered itself in a wet heap to the side of your head, and your hands are too slopping wet to shake on greeting...)

So there was only one thing for it, a nice hot curry. The British Raj provided a gloriously warm welcome, very comfortable seating, friendly staff and lovely food- good rich sauce which although hot still retained all its depth of flavours. It is obviously best appreciated after a hard evening's canvassing (preferably with me of course) - so what are you waiting for?!

Read my latest Guardian blog

Read my latest Guardian blog 'Welcome to the Quangocracy' HERE

They cost each household in the UK over £2,500. They employ almost 700,000 people. They cost the nation £64bn. But the government refuses to publish a list of them, and refuses to provide a breakdown of where this money is going.

But research by the Taxpayers' Alliance) has revealed that since New Labour came to power, the cost of this unseen branch of government has risen by 50%. They are the quangos.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Good news for Southmead Health Centre

I met with Richard Stroud ( pictured, left) who showed me round the new improvements he's helping to make at Southmead Health Centre.

The centre has needed some improvements - the roof suffers from perpetual damp in places, the staff showed me how hot and cramped it can get in summer and the interior needs a bit of face lift- but hopefully those improvements will be on the way.

It was so good to see the vision and dynamism that Southmead deserves, and a real vision for the future. Carry on the great work!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

My discovery: First Bus's £125k bill to Terror Police

You probably, like me, gaped when you found out: That First Bus has charged Avon and Somerset Police £125,000 - yes, £125 GRAND, for CCTV footage to help investigate the case of Andrew Ibrahim.

I used a Freedom of Information Act to find out how much the police have been charged.

First Bus say that they have charged so much because equiptment needed to be removed to help the police in their investigations. But given that the entire purpose of a CCTV camera is ultimately to help police with their investigations, I find it extraordinary that it should cost so much.

I have written to Justin Davies, Director of First Bus, demanding an explanation for the obscenely high bill they sent to First Bus. I will keep you posted.

See how HTV West reported the story here
BBC News Website here
The Evening Post here

Monday, 16 June 2008

Read my latest Guardian blog

Read my latest Guardian Blog HERE

The Irish "no" vote should be a death knell to the Lisbon treaty. But moreover, Gordon Brown's determined defiance to support it is a sign that the Government has forgotten its remit, and its mandate. It is time for it to retire.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Dragon Boat Sunday

Lots of things seem a good idea at the time, then lose their allure fast as the day of their fulfillment dawns. Some things however regain their allure, and you end up not regretting that enthusiastic moment when you said 'yes'.

Taking part in the fundraising Dragon Boat Race , for the Life Education Centre was a fantastic way to spend a Sunday. The atmosphere was brilliant, with teams from all over Bristol competing and raising money for charity.

Well done to all the organisers who worked so hard - and to Captain Hilary who kept our boat ship shape and Bristol Fashion. No mean feat.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Vassall Centre celebrations

The Vassall Centre celebrated its 10th anniversary today, putting on a show with nationally renowned comedian Mat Fraser, and lots of other attractions.

The centre provides a real example of how every work place and community facility can , with a bit of imagination and effort, be made completely accessible to all with disability.

It was fantastic to see the progress that has been made from the days when the centre was run down, and had little real accessibility to the disabled to boast of.

Since then, they have undergone a huge refurbishment and redevelopment which makes it an icon of a barrier-free zone - and really sets the standard - and the challenge - to future barrier-free development.

Monday, 9 June 2008

a Grand effort from Upper Horfield Community Trust

Upper Horfield Community Trust should have festivals more often. I have never known one of their festival weekends to be held in anything other than glorious sunshine.

And this year, they raised in the region of £1000 for the area. Not only that, but they bring a whole community together with a mix of fun for the family, children's activities - and informative stalls and advice points. Everything under one roof - or, er, blue sky.

I entered the prize draw, got caught up in drama as the boards behind me fell over and almost crushed the lady in red hair filling in the prize draw form - and in all the excitement I managed to leave my wallet at the stall. Within fifteen minutes, I'd had a phone call from one of the organisers telling me not to panic, (which I was. Heartily.) He had my wallet. That really said it all - even amongst all the activity, the organisers had time to spot a stray wallet and take the time to return it to its rightful owner. Thank you and well done to Ray Hulbert MBE, and Maria who put so much effort into what was a fantastic weekend.

Read my latest Guardian blog

Read my new Guardian Blog post HERE

You know the feeling. You're staring at the notice board for the platform to come up for your train. When instead of a platform announcement - the departure time flickers on the screen from 08.45 to 08.48. Your heart sinks.

Why? Not because you suspect you are going to be three minutes late, but because you suspect that someone, somewhere, knows you are going to be an hour and a half late, but just hasn't got the guts to tell you yet.

That's how we felt when budget growth forecasts began to inch downwards. From Gordon Brown's last budget, to Alistair Darling's debut budget - and then on and on ever since.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Post Offices want a hand up, not a hand out...

Today, Charles Hendry MP ( Shadow Minister for Postal Affairs) came to Bristol to talk about the closure of Wellington Hill West Post Office and 28 others across the city.

(Photo shows Mani Ghuman, from the Federation of Sub Postmasters, me, the Sub Postmaster of Wellington Hill West- David Mothersdill, Charles Hendry MP, and Adrian Mothersdill, assistant sub postmaster.)

True to form, Labour only seem to be able to talk money and subsidies when it come to the saving the post office network. We have pledged to match subsidy on the network to keep it alive, but what Labour cannot seem to understand, is that simply loading money into something is not the answer.

The tragic and infuriating thing about the closure of post offices is that if you actually speak to the sub-postmasters involved, they are itching with ideas as to how to make their post office outlet competitive. Sub-Postmasters don't want to exist on Government subsidy, but on business success.
Sub-Postmasters don't want to exist on Government subsidy, but on business success.

Many sub-post masters wanted to offer all sorts of services - mobile top ups, council counters but were prevented from doing so by Post Office ltd. When Post Office ltd. finally caught onto the fact that these were good things, the post masters had missed the boat and other stores had cornered the market. Even now, sub-post masters have been constrained in their drive to make their business a going venture instead of a subsidy dependent appendage of the state.

Labour MPs who voted for the closure of post office branches ( including all Bristol Labour MPs, except Kerry McCarthy who, I understand , was not present for the vote ) whitter on pathetically about Tories and subsidies. The point is, that whilst we have pledged to match the subsidies, the Post Office network shouldn't NEED the subsidies. It is full of bright entrepreneurs who want to inject vitality and health into the network to make it more self-sustaining.

Before we start closing down our valuable and irreplaceable community network of Post Offices, let's liberate the Post Masters to really make a go of it, as so many are itching to do. Only then, when we have liberated Post Offices to compete in the modern world, reassessed the amount of subsidy that the post office needs in that light, should we even begin to think about closing any down. Closures before that point are little less than the unnecessary decimation of hundreds of communities.