Honeyball’s Weekly Round Up

Labour Party

Although the week’s news was dominated by the minute-by- minute updates of alleged  Northumbrian murderer, Raoul Moat, the coalition government haven’t escaped the headlines entirely. Michael Gove remained in the spotlight after he failed to shake off the furore following his decision to cancel school building projects.

His announcement that some 700 school redevelopments would be scrapped in an effort to cut the deficit sparked outrage among members on all sides of the House.

Worse still, an almighty mix up followed with the Department of Education saying that some schools would be saved from the cuts, only to find out later this was a mistake and Gove was forced to apologise, again.

Even Conservative MPs are angered by this. Tory MP Philip Davies tabled a question asking why the projects in his constituency will be cut, and two dozen MPs have signed a motion condemning the ‘cavalier attitude towards pupils, parents and teachers.’

I don’t think I’ll have a chance to watch education questions tomorrow when Gove will be asked to offer a plan B for those schools hit by the controversial cuts, but I certainly hope he’s at home right now planning something to reinstate those education projects so badly needed across the country.

Gove isn’t the only minister currently facing the heat.  Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is also planning a £1bn attack on ‘bureaucracy’. He plans to reduce the number of health quangos There are disturbing rumours that the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which employs 2000 staff, will also be abolished.

It’s become terribly fashionable to bash the quangos, but they do a job and my concern is who will take on their role if they are abolished?

Many of the campaigns these organisations have been involved in have had a huge impact on our lives, in some cases proving to be life saving. Take the FSA campaign to reduce our salt intake or the saturated fat campaign, both of which have had a significant impact on how we as a nation think about food and our own personal health.

Other health quangos in the firing line are the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the NHS Blood and Transplant.  Both these organisations provide an essential service and they must not simply be done away with.

Both Lansley and Gove will face a huge backlash against their proposals. Is this an early warning of the tornados facing the government? Andrew Rawnsley asks just that in today’s Observer, which you can read here.

Meanwhile, on our side, Vincent Moss in today’s Sunday Mirror reveals that Peter Mandelson’s memoirs say Brown never got over losing his battle with Blair to become Labour leader in 1994. I hope there is something more compelling in Mandelson’s books than going over old stories that we have all heard time and time again.  If I decide to read it, I will want to know that there will be something a bit more insightful.  The full Sunday Mirror piece is here.

 Of course we still have Blair’s memoirs ‘The Journey’ to come out – due in September. Watch this space (and many others no doubt)…

Product Placement will not increase TV revenue

Labour Party

product placementBefore I start my post on today’s Culture and Education Committee, I would like to say congratulations to David Miliband for lambasting the Tories’ new allies in Europe.  As I have said many times on this blog, the Tories in the European Parliament have joined up with some very unsavoury, not to say extremely right wing, bedfellows.  David mentioned both the Tories’ Latvian partner whose Party has taken part in a march commemorating the Waffen SS and the homophobic Polish Law and Justice Party, the current holder leadership of the ECR  (European Conservatives and Reformists).  At last people are beginning to find out about the real Cameron Conservatives.

Congratulations also to the Irish for their excellent result in ratifying the Lisbon Treaty – another blow for Mr Cameron who now seems totally at sea over whether or not to have his cherished referendum on Lisbon, always assuming he gets the opportunity. 

Add this to a good week for Labour in Blackpool with outstanding performances from Gordon Brown,  Peter Mandelson and Harriet Harman and it becomes evident that the Tories are failing to keep up.

Meanwhile on the Culture and Education Committee which also has responsibility for media matters, product placement has reared its head again.  The Committee today received a pre-study to identify further research on the new legislation on product placement on commercial television.  As we already knew, product placement accounts for only two per cent of TV revenue across the EU.  However, since it has gone up by 37 per cent in the last year there is perhaps potential for further revenue raising.

The Committee was concerned abs to whether product placement would have a detrimental effect on children, perhaps having a subliminal effect as far as violence and abuse are concerned.  While this will probably never be answered satisfactorily, what we do know is that children watch considerable amounts of TV during adult viewing time.  In Britain 69 per cent of children into this category, while in the USA and Japan children watch over four hours of television a day.  Mercifully, this latter figure is better in Europe where the lowest number of hours viewed by children is in Holland at 106 minutes per day.  This is, of course, only television and not other “screen time” such as that in front of a computer.

Whether we like it or not, television is a huge part of everyday life.  This is why it’s so important to think about viewing habits and not just let the drift towards ever longer time in front of a box of some sort continue without our being aware of the consequences.


Labour Party

Peston Cover

No, it’s not Mary Honeyball on Gordon Brown, or even Lord Peter Mandelson.  I’m afraid I’m going to write about something far more prosaic- Robert Peston’s book of the same name.  Now that I’m back in Brussels/Strasbourg I intend to resume my previous practice of a blog book review on as many weekends as I can manage.

As with a lot of books written by journalists, “Who Runs Britain” is largely a compilation of stories and issues Peston has worked on over the past few years.  Interesting though this is, the book provides no real revelations or new angles.  Neither does it answer its central question.  At the end I had no further insight into who Peston thinks runs Britain than when I started the book.  Neither do I know who Peston himself really thinks runs the country.

This apart, the book is a worthwhile read, dealing as it does with the rise of the super rich and the problems associated with this, the decline and revival of Marks and Spencer in the context of retailing in general and the future of the Post Office, perhaps a more topical subject due to the plans for its part privatisation now that when the book was first written.  Peston brings his extensive knowledge to bear on these and associated matters in an entertaining and readable way, as you would expect from a top journalist.

Peston, it would appear, has achieved his pre-eminence from gaining expertise in what may be considered by some as not very exciting business news and then transforming it into something we all want to see, hear and read about.  While I think his broadcast news is rather more interesting than this book, I would still recommend reading it, if only to bring your knowledge up to speed.


blog, internet, Labour Party, Online media

Thought I would share with my readers John Prescott’s wonderful video that I saw at the LabourList Bloggers’ Breakfast this morning. It was a light hearted message to Peter Mandelson, who was present at the meeting!