Notes from a new councillor: opposing Conservative cuts to children’s centres

One of the key elements in my campaign for election as Oxfordshire County Councillor was the cut in funding many of the Children’s Centres throughout Oxfordshire.

The closure of the Maple Tree Children’s Centre, Wheatley, in my patch inflamed the local community. Many parents and carers relied on the services and support provided at the Children’s Centre for health advice, parenting support, breast-feeding counselling, and meeting other local parents/carers.

This has been a big local issue. Our new Oxford West and Abingdon MP, Layla Moran, secured a debate in Westminster Hall on Children’s Centres. She moved that, “That this House has considered the role of children’s centres in tackling social inequality.”  You can read the full debate here.

Of those children’s centres slated for closure, communities were given the opportunity to keep their centres open. Residents of Wheatley rallied and a group was set up. The hope is that they will re-open the Maple Tree Children’s Centre from September, albeit with more limited services.

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Jamie Stone, the ferret and the pantomime dame

That’s a headline I never thought I’d write.

Online TV channel Core TV has been interviewing new MPs. It’s not a traditional political interview and is meant to be a light-hearted introduction to our new law makers.

Our Jamie Stone’s effort will make your mind boggle. It’s hilarious and has to be seen to be believed. Enjoy.

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Trump’s equivocating over Charlottesville Nazis embarrasses May and hurts new US Dutch Ambassador

It was interesting to read the free daily “Worldview” newsletter put out by the Washington Post yesterday.

Talking about the unprecedented spectacle of an American President equivocating about how evil heavily armed, swastikas and KKK regalia-wearing racists and neo-Nazis are, the WP draws our attention to how these scary shenanigans embarrass the foreign allies and friends of the USA, especially those who (out of national interests, seldom out of personal sympathy) so far tried to get into Trump’s “good allies” book. The WP takes Theresa May as its case in point in this aspect.

They remind us of the spectacle of May visiting Trump’s White House in January, holding his hand and trumpeting that the “Special Relationship” was well and continuing.

The WP thinks this show of support was a contributing factor when May, a wooden campaigner anyway, held her snap election in June, losing her majority and seeing her ministers returned with lesser majorities. Trump surely didn’t help, attacking London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

The WP only quotes May seeing “no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them”, saying she didn’t mention Trump by name, and her then going on about Big Ben being silenced. WP concludes she is still too cautious to explicitly condemn Trump, contrasting her overall treatment of Trump with the more distance-keeping approach of Merkel and Macron. The WP mentions Tory criticism of Trump from for example minister Sajid Javid MP.

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Two holds, a gain and a near miss: a roundup of last night’s by-elections

Three by-elections took place for Aylesbury Vale District Council last night. We successfully defended two seats and missed out on another by only fifteen votes:

And there was good news from Epping where Cherry McCredie gained a Town Council seat from the Conservatives by some margin:

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Patriotism, Brexit and the clamour for reform

It’s been over a year since the EU referendum and months since the snap General Election. The Remain/Leave debate trundles on and the constant repetition of key messages from each side of the debate now largely falls on deaf ears. On most topics each campaign and their primary spokespersons still maintain positions in absolute opposition with minimal evidence of concession. There is little to no debate, simply rhetoric. In my experience it’s often been an impersonal, fear based, economic argument for Remain or an emotional but limited argument for Leave. We deserve better from both. Why should we, as the British people, settle for absolutes on both sides that so greatly lack imagination? 

Our different forms of patriotism need to find common ground and I believe it’s possible to do so. Our Government and their opposition have both given up on their belief in the benefits of European Single Market membership so we need centrists to hold them to account. At the same time we must acknowledge that there are issues with accountability and sovereignty in the EU that need to be discussed and addressed in detail. Above all we should loudly refute the idea that there isn’t a common ground for most people across the Brexit debate.

It strikes me that we demand so little of our Government. Perhaps this is because of a lack of faith in politics. Given recent developments it feels that Brexit lacks any real ambition and has become a face-saving exercise for the Government. What’s worse is that Brexit has become a distraction from other important work the Government needs to focus on.  The general election highlighted the public’s desire for other substantive reforms – reforms to address the inequality in our nation and demands to ease austerity. Also, crucially, I think it helped highlight a lack of direction. We’re one of the financial centres of the globe, a trade, industrial, and tech giant – but what’s our goal? What are we driving towards? It is this lack of direction and purpose that I feel helped fuel the Leave campaign, opening the door for a damaging nationalist sentiment.

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No, Vince Cable will not be launching new anti-Brexit party with former Mail Political Editor

You do have to wonder if the @jameschappers Twitter account is a parody or has been taken over by the Brexiteers who are tweeting from some holiday bar for fun. It’s doing some seriously weird stuff at the moment, including suggesting that Vince Cable is going to be launching Chapman’s new anti Brexit Party on 9th September. Seriously.

No, he isn’t. It is that simple.

Jim Waterson of Buzzfeed has chapter and verse:

He quotes a Liberal Democrat spokesperson as saying:

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Vince: Trump state visit would be “completely wrong” after Charlottesville comments

“Fine people on both sides” said Donald Trump of the horrific events in Charlottesville at the weekend. I suspect most of you reading this site will, like me, utterly reject the notion that you can go to a demo, stand on the same side as people carrying swastikas and dressing kids up in KKK costume and be a “fine person.”

Vince Cable has condemned Trump’s remarks and has renewed Liberal Democrat calls for the offer of a State visit to be withdrawn.

He said:

The events of the last few days have shocked and appalled the entire world.

Images of Nazis, marching in American streets, terrorist attacks on peaceful protestors. Every world leader should be able to condemn that.

Donald Trump’s response to these tragic events has been shocking.

He has shown that he is unable to detach himself from the extreme-right and racial supremacists.

The fact he remains highly dependent on White House advisors from the extreme-right shows he is firmly anchored in this detestable worldview.

It would be completely wrong to have this man visit the UK on a State Visit.

The government should be following the far more prudent example to relations with the US President set by Angela Merkel in Germany.

Tim Farron first called for the State visit offer to be withdrawn in the wake of Trump’s first attempt at a travel ban the week after he entered the White House.

It is pretty awful to have a Government that is so dependent on the hope of a trade deal that they won’t condemn the way he has reacted. We’ve spent the last 70 years at the heart of an organisation that has fought for human rights and democracy across the world. Now we are going to be entering a period of excessive pandering to all sorts of dodgy characters because we need their trade and will probably have to take it on whatever terms they demand. It will be a far cry from the days when we could roll up with 27 of our mates and tell them to get lost with their chlorinated chicken. 

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