Friday 30 March 2012

1948 Summer Olympics London: XIV Olympiad

For the second time War interrupted the Olympic cycle.

The 1940 Games of the XII Olympiad had been awarded to Tokyo and were due to be held from 21 September to 6 October. But they were stripped of the honour at the 1938 IOC congress because of their participation in the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.

Helsinki who had been runners up in the original bid process when subsequently awards the games, the new schedule was for them to take part from 20 July to 4 August. Of course the outbreak of an even bigger war led to the IOC cancelling the XII Olympiad.

Helsinki would host the XV Olympiad in 1952, Tokyo eventually the XVIII in 1964.

In June 1939 the XII Olympiad was awarded to London on the first ballot, beating bids from Rome, Detroit, Lausanne, Athens, Budapest, Helsinki and Montreal. A few months later Europe was at war, at the end of the war it was decided that London should host the next scheduled games in 1948 unelected because it had missed out, despite 10 rival bids.

So having sorted all that out, on to the Games themselves:

Nations 59 (+10)
Competitors 4104 (+141)
Sports 17 (-2)
Events 136 (+7)

Hosted by London, United Kingdom 29 July to 7 August 1948

Once again as after the First World War the main instigators of the War, Germany and Japan were not invited. Though Austria and Italy (who had changed sides after deposing Mussolini were invited. The Soviet Union were again invited but did not send any athletes.

However, there were new nations coming to what were known as the Austerity Games in the post war climate. British Guiana (now Guyana), Burma (now Myanmar), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Korea, Lebanon, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Syrria, Trinidad & Tobago and Venuzuela were all first time official attendees. Philippines, India and Pakistan were all competing for the first time as independent nations, the first from the USA, the other two from the first division of the old Indian Empire from British control. Pakistan already had natives who were Olympic gold medallists the first being Feroze Khan who had taken part in the 1928 winning Indian hockey team, when he passed away in 2005 aged 100 he was the oldest surviving Olympian at that time. Korea similarly had already won gold with the 1936 Marathon winner Sohn Kee-chung, who had competed for the occupying Japanese.

Jamaica's first two Olympic medallists Arthur Wint
taking the tape ahead of Herb McKenley in 400m final
Of the new nations Jamaica struck gold in the shape of Arthur Wint in the 400m, beating compatriot Herb McKenley into silver; he also took silver in the 800m. Ceylon managed a silver in the 400m hurdles with Duncan White. Trinidad and Tobago managed a debut silver in the weightlifting through Rodney Wilkes beating  Jafar Salmasi of fellow debutante nation Iran into bronze in the 60kg division. Korea took two bronzes Han Soo-Ann in the Flyweight boxing and Kim Seong-Jip in the 75kg weightlifting. Another boxing bronze went to Puerto Rico in the Bantamweight division to Juan Evangelista Venegas, there is a national tournament in his honour to tune up Puerto Rican Olympic hopefuls.  Pakistan just lost out on bronze in the field hockey after a replay having ties the 3rd place play-off with Netherlands 1-1. Their captain Ali Iqtidar Shah Dara was hoping to add to the gold he had won 12 years earlier for India.

"The Flying Housewife" in flight on the way to 80m
hurdles gold
In 1936 an 18 year old Dutch women took part in the high jump and 4x100m both of which finals occurred on the same day. She ended up being fifth in both. But in Berlin she managed to get the autograph of Jesse Owen who had won four Golds in those games. She went on to set world records in the years after those Games and was looking good for the Games in Helsinki, but those Games were cancelled on 2 May 1940 and a week later her beloved Netherlands were invaded.

At the time she was engaged to a triple jumper from the 1928 Games who thought women had no place in sport, until he fell for his future wife. They were married in occupied Netherlands in August 1940 and when she had her first son in 1941 everyone thought her career as an athlete was over. However, within weeks of the birth she resumed training. Now 12 years later and the mother of three children she appeared in London and stole the show. With gold in the 100m, 200m, 80m hurdles and 4x100m Fanny Blankers-Koen had equalled the record of Owens. She was also the first Dutch Athlete of either gender to win gold.

White future congressman can jump
The Decathlon with its ten disciplines is supposedly the hardest of the Athletic events in the games. However, in the London Games a recent High School graduate from Tulare Union High School California, became what is still the youngest ever gold medallist in track and field. Some of the events were alien to him and he almost fouled out of the shot putt and almost fouled in the high jump but after the two days of competition he ended up on with Gold at just 17 years 294 days of age.

Bob Mathias would go on to complete a decathlon double 4 years later in Helsinki, the first decathlete to do so, a feat only repeated by London's own Daley Thompson. From 1967 to 1975 he served as the Republic Congressman in the US House of Representatives for the 18th District of California, before this was redrawn and renumbered in the 17th for the elections of 1974, he lost out by less than 5000 votes or 3.8% on the gerrymandered boundaries.

Top medal earner of the London Games was Finnish gymnast Veikko Huhtanen he tied on a score of 38.7 along with his compatriots Paavo Aaltonen (also Gold in the vault and Bronze all-around) and Heikki Savolainen (bronze 1928) for Gold in the Pommel Horse. He earned gold in the all around helped by silver medal performance in the Parallel Bars and Bronze in the Horizontal Bar, although only 0.7 points clear of the Walter Lehmann (Swi) in silver and a further 0.2 to Aaltonen. With the team picking up a total of 7 apparatus medals out of 18(21) as well as Gold and Bronze in the individual all around  secured the team gold. These were the first golds that Finland had secured in Gymnastics.

In the women's Gymnastics event, which was only a team event, Czechoslovakia won. This achievement is all the more astounding when you learn that one of the Czech gymnastics, Eliška Misáková, took ill after arriving in London and despite all the best efforts died of polio just before the contest started. One of the team mates was also her sister Miloslava who ended up contributed the 4th best scores of all the women gymnasts.

Indeed although there was no official individual all around the medals should have been:

  • Gold - Zdeňka Honsová (Cze) 54.85
  • Silver- Edit Parényi Weckinger (Hun) 54.25
  • Laura Micheli (Ita) 53.65
  • 4th Equal Miloslava Misáková (Cze) Mária Zalai-Kövi (Hun) 53.4

See also: Full list of Olympiad posts

Thursday 29 March 2012

John McCallister Delivers

One of the phrases that is often used on election literature is [INSERT NAME] Delivers.

Well this morning that became literal for one of the candidates in the Ulster Unionist leadership race. At 7am the wife of John McCallister went into labour a week early and the MLA for South Down ended up being talked through the procedure for delivery of his son Harry James by Ambulance Control. He certainly did deliver and showed calmness under pressure.

It couldn't be more timely an event for McCallister only yesterday former UUP now Independent MLA David McClarty said:

"The reason why I would possibly plump for Mike is that John is a young man with a very young family, and leadership of a party is so time demanding that it’s not fair on a young family. 
"There will be criticism directed at him, and families experience that criticism and take it to heart. When you’re in politics you develop a think skin and it’s like water off a duck. But wives don’t, and families don't, and that happened with me when I wasn't selected by the Ulster Unionist Party. It hurt badly but it hurt my family even more and a young family doesn’t need that pressure."

Somebody had better not tell the Prime Minister David Cameron, or his Deputy Nick Clegg, nor the leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband that as all three have young families. As for that matter does Barack Obama.

Just when is it right to take the leadership of a party Mr McClarty? Is it when you are ready and the party decides you are ready or is it only when you are old and grey with kids off to University or whatever. Because if the latter had McAllister had children while he was a teenager rather than now at 39 they would be through University, but would being a teenage father have made him any more able to be leader of a political party? Of course we cannot tell.

Artful Thursday 10: Titanic

There is something in the air in Belfast at the moment two new sculptures have been unveiled this week. You'd think we were in the build up to some titanic anniversary or something.

Well the first was unveiled on Tuesday with a religious blessing, even if her nakedness did cause the Rev. Chris Bennett one of the Chaplins for the Titanic Quarter a bit of an embarrassing moment on BBC Newsline. He did however, eventually find the right words to describe her as in "all her glory".

The second was unveiled yesterday by First Minister Peter Robinson, who is one of the MLAs for the area. This one was at Pitt Park and the backdrop is as much a part of the scene as anything. Called The Yardmen it depicts three ship yard workers heading home from Harland and Wolff with Belfast's iconic cranes in the back ground.

Even the new sign at Titanic Belfast and the building itself are works of art.

And that opens this Saturday. I'm intending to get there as soon as possible after to let you know what it is like.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Farewell Skip

Today will be a strange day to be a bowler.

Later tonight at the last night of the church bowling club season I will once again be awarded a club championship trophy. Picking up and winning bowling trophies is something I have done since I was 18. I have actually been crowned a champion in three nations of the United Kingdom, but I also have been crowned a champion of Ireland, not once but twice and in the same tournament in consecutive years. That is why today is strange.

In 1998 I moved bowling clubs. It was a strenuous task as the new club's green was literally 2 metres from my old and current outdoor club, North Down. But the difference between North Down and Bangor while short in distance was miles in standard. Bangor were the best, not just in our league, nor indeed just in Ireland, but for the three years I played for them they kept producing outstanding performances in the British Isles championships as well.

I had in the 1997 season played third throughout the entire North Down season. That is the sort of position where you have to know how to play your bowls and all shots in order to assist the skip. I was playing third on the B team unable then to crack into the As. However, somehow I also managed to play third that season behind 8 skips! Yeah that is right someone who for most of the season played second was promoted to skip before I was that season and I wasn't happy. Not happy at all seeing as I collected three trophies in the club championships that year. First in one final, second in another and third in the scores for the rinks through out the season. I'd also managed to get to the last 16 of the Bangor Pairs tournament, skipping a pair with a Bangor player. Further than any other North Down player that week.

One player who watched all my games that week was Joe Mercer. He was one of the people who persuaded me to come play for Bangor. He said to me that I was too good to be stuck in the B team at North Down where seniority not merit was rewarded. So I did. I knew that Bangor's B Team would probably have beaten North Down's A Team at that time but because at that time the Northern Ireland Bowling Association (NIBA) was split into 4 Senior Divisions for the A Teams and 2 Junior Divisions for the Bs that was never tested. So I would have been happy just to make the B team. Even at second, or lead (which is not my most natural position but one I could play if asked).

So after the first selection meeting ahead of the first game of the season I went into the clubhouse more in hope than expectation to see if my name was on the team sheet. It was, and I was still playing third, and third to Joe Mercer. It was a position I was to hold more or less throughout the season, though I was dropped for one game, which I was raging about, merely it seemed to give everyone a fair go in the early part of the season. Joe took to me one side and said, "Don't worry Stephen I'll make sure you are back playing third to me next week", and I was, not just the next week but for the rest of the season. And what a season it was.

Joe and me couldn't have been more different on the bowling green. I like to shout and show emotion, Joe just quietly gets on with it. I can and will play all the shots from full on drives to delicate draws, through controlled weight and just enough to turn bowls. Joe liked to just be able to draw his two in to add to the score. But the combination worked well and Joe loved to be able to imbue his experience into the new generation of bowlers and that was something he certainly did for me. I do still shout and jump about on the green, but even if I appear to be losing my cool with my opponents that is also part of the show and I am zen like within, ready to calmly play my next bowl when it is due. That is a lesson looking at most of the skips I have had that I could only have picked up from Joe.

There are very few seasons when you can't say you wish you'd done better, but that 1998 season was one of them. Bangor's B Team only lost 2 games all year. One of them we still one 3 points for having 3 of the four rinks up, but the fourth lost but just one shot more than the rest of us could cover and in the other we lost by 2 shots but with 2 rinks up and two rinks down. We won the NIBA Junior Division 1 by some margin with the As winning Senior 1. On the Wednesday nights through the season we also managed to secure the NIBA Junior Cup in the final up at Ormeau while our A team were on the other green, but just lost. But there was something that Bangor Bs have never done before and that was lift the Irish Bowling Association Junior Cup.

Both team battled through the Irish Cup rounds but the As finally feel at the Semi Final stage, something we learnt up at Larne when we came off having secured our place in the Junior final. So we went to Carrick on a day much like today clear blue skies, no wind and the sun warming our backs. We were to play Limavady whose coach had broken down on the way. However, with both the NIBA trophies safely in Bangor for the third successive double we wanted to add the icing to the cake. Something that we duly did. The junior triple was ours.

On the left label from top to bottom
IBA Junior Cup Winner
NIBA Junior Div 1 Winner
NIBA Junior Cup Winner
The following year I started out playing with Joe once again, but mid season there was an adjustment in the teams. We lost one less game than in 1998, but sadly the one we lost was the NIBA Junior Cup. The following year we lost out in the same stage of the NIBA Cup and finally lost our Irish Cup streak in the Quarter Finals at the same venue and against the same opponents as the year before.

It was my first season at Bangor and it was the perfect season. I also added the Northern Ireland Civil Service Triples title to cap it off. Today was very similar to that day in August 1998, but today the mowed grass I saw was at the graveside of my skip from that day. Joe died on the day that would have been his 55th Wedding Anniversary two days what would have been his and his late wife Sylvia's 79th Birthdays. Bowlers from all the teams in Ward Park and former teams mates of Joe's turned up to honour the man who was ever present it seemed in the park, but always a quiet, courteous and friendly figure.

He will be dearly missed.

RIP Joe Mercer 25 March 1934 - 23 March 2012


Did I say I'd be winner of one cup tonight?

Turns out I was a double champion. On the right is the club championship (which I'd actually won in 1997) on the left is the one for winner the rinks, (that is getting the best 12 scores a max of one per week through the season).

Friday 23 March 2012

1936 Summer Olympics Berlin: XI Olympiad

In 1931 during the period of the Wiemar Republic, and two years before Hitler came to power, the IOC came to Germany to make the decision on who would host the 1936 Games. In contention were

  • Alexandria, Egypt
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Cologne, Germany
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Frankfurt, Germany
  • Helsinki, Finland
  • Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Nuremberg, Germany
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Rome, Italy
Yet only two received votes Barcelona 16 and Berlin 46.

Therefore twenty years after they were due to host the summer Olympics, that were cancelled due to the Great War, Berlin was giving another chance to do so.

Nations 49 (+12)
Competitors 3963 (+2631)
Sports 19 (+5)
Events 129 (+12)

1-16 August hosted by Berlin, Germany

These were the first Games at which Afghanistan, Bermuda, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Liechtenstein and Peru participated. While none of them achieved any notable success the Peruvians were involved in a moment of controversy.

There was apparently a "crafty Berlin decision" that obstructed the Peruvian's passage into the semi-finals. Their football team was trailing the Austrian's 2-0 before the Peruvians scoring two goals back in the last 20 minutes and taking the tie into extra time, which the Peruvians won 4-2. Austrian players claimed that the Peruvians had manhandled them and that there had been a pitch invasion including one man brandishing a pistol. Basketball


Earlier this month the details of the 2012 Olympic torch relay were unveiled, although there had been a relay for the past two games we had not had a procession of the flame around the host country in the lead up to the opening ceremony until Berlin. Everyone talks about the person(s) who are the last to carry the torch on the relay, but what about the first person to carry it on the relay

That honour goes to Konstantinos Kondylis the Greek athlete who was handed the flame at Mount Olympus to take it on the first stage of what is now a well trodden tradition.

Also new in the 1936 was the way that swimmers started their races. Up until then they had merely dived in from the wall at the side of the pool. In Berlin the swimmers for the first time dived in from raised starting blocks poolside.

Handball was one of three sports to make its Olympic debut in Berlin. It is one of those sports that remains largely an enigma in the UK because we have so far never had a team take part in the sport; one of very few we have never taken part in (the others are Softball and Baseball).

In 1936 it was played outdoors and wasn't to reappear on the Olympic calendar until the Summer Games returned to Germany in 1972 in Munich and has been part of the Games ever since.

Canoeing also entered the pantheon of Olympic events in Berlin out on the Langer See in the South East of the city. Both the kayak (seated) and Canadian (kneeling) disciplines were represented from those first games. The events were:

  • C1 - 1000m
  • C2 - 1000m
  • C2 - 10000m
  • K1 - 1000m
  • K1 - 10000m
  • K1 - 10000m folding
  • K2 - 1000m
  • K2 - 10000m
  • K2 - 10000m folding

Austria topped the medal table with 3 golds all in kayak, Germany took 2 of the other kayak golds and Czechoslovakia 2 of the Canadian, the other of which went to Canada. Sweden took the final gold in.

Basketball was the third sport to make its Olympic debut in Berlin. Like handball although it is now played in an indoor arena at Games it was held outdoors at a converted tennis stadium. However, the sand and clay surface of the court proved as issue in the heavy rain during the final of the game. The players were unable to dribble in the quagmire of a court and the scoring was low. However, the USA did dominate and became the first champions beating Canada 19-8 in that rain affected match.

Joe Naismith who had invented the game some 45 years earlier presented the medals to the successful teams. 


Soon after Hitler was elected leader there was always going to be controversy surrounding these Games. Jewish athletes were banned from sports clubs and from the team. So athletes like 4 time World Record holder Lilla Henoch (who missed out on 1924 due to the German ban) and Gertel Bergmann the national record holder in high jump were not selected.

There were calls for boycotts, the biggest of which was in the USA. Jewish organisations heavily wanted a boycott but the African-American press wanted the team to go feeling that the wins of top block athletes would shame Hitler's theory of Aryan supremacy. In the end though the team did go, some individual Jewish athletes did refuse to go. Bit more controversially Sam Stoller and Marty Glickmann the only two Jews on the 4x100m relay team were pulled from the event on the day of the final, some believe to avoid embarrassment to Hitler of Jews winning gold medals.

Spain however, did refuse to go. They even went as far as to arrange an alternative People's Olympiad which attracted interest from athletes from 22 countries. However, just one day before that event was die to start the Spanish Civil War broke out and it was cancelled. Spain like the Soviet Union would not take part in the 1936 Games.


Of course these were the Games of Jesse Owens winning four golds in 100m, 200m, long jump and 4x100m.

But there was also the first medal winning Koreans, although because of the 1910 annexation of Korea by Japan they competed in Japanese colours. Both of them where in the marathon. The winner was Sohn Kee-Chung (competing as Son Kitei, the Japanese pronounciation) and in bronze was Nam Sung-jong (Nan Shōryū).

The pair Sohn from Sinŭiju in the North and Nam from Sucheon in the South when they turned to face the flags being hoisted bowed their heads in protest (pictured). Sohn would end up staying in the South up to and after partition of Korea helping develop athletes and was one of the carriers of the Olympic Torch in the stadium at the XXIV Games in Seoul.

Kristjan Palusalu of Estonia won double gold in the heavyweight divisions of both the Greco-Roman and Freestyle Wrestling the first and only time this has been done. Of course during World War II Estonia along with the other Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania would be absorbed into the USSR, until 1992.

Palusalu on top in this bout
However, when the Soviet Union occupied Estonia in 1940 he was sentenced to hard labour. He tried to escape but with fellow escapees was captured and sentenced to death, however they were given a reprieve if they fought on the front lines in the Soviet war with Finland. But he and others deserted to the Finish side apparently shouting "Finnish boys do not shoot Estonians" as they crossed the line. He was recognised by a sports fan in the Finnish army. He was imprisoned but allowed to return to his homeland, by this point under German occupation. But when the Soviets came once again he found himself back in prison but this time was allowed to work as a trainer. As well as being recognised as a greats Estonian sportsman he is also a symbol of the Estonian struggle for independence. Sadlt his death in March 1987 came before the start of the changes in Eastern Europe that would eventually lead to the restoration on independence of this proud Estonian's nation in 1991.

See also:  This is a list of all my posts other Olympics

Thursday 22 March 2012

Team GB (and NI) kit revelaed

So the Stella McCartney designed Olympic kits have been unveiled today.

They have to be special, they have to be different, they have link to what GB&NI  is all about. But most of all they have to be fit for purpose for the various athletes in their disciplines.

From what we have heard today by the various athletes and Stella herself that was the prime factor behind the design as far as shape, material and form of the various elements go. Discussions were held with the various sports about what was required as far as that was concerned. Some sports like swimming actually have regulations about what is allowed in terms of material.

So it comes down to design. Some people are complaining that Stella's design removed the red from the flag. But there is more red in her designs that in 2008 (right). Which was a very simplistic use of blue and white with red highlights.

However, athletics and cycling currently both use the Union flag in different ways in basing their current international colours. They do use the colours in all their correct details. So how could Stella incorporate flag without giving more of a hint to one sport than another. Simple, she went for a stylised monocolour, multitone version of it. Something that has been done before.

It brings an abstract yet recognisable version of our flag. But it is also something that stands out as special and different for all the sports men and women involved in both the Olympics and Paralympics. There is more red in the kit that there have been probably since the red and blue hoops around the midriff, that s before female runners did away with the midriff section of their kits.

I fell the kit will make a statement in these games. It will be something that ordinary sports fans will want to own a bit off, when replicas go on public sale next month. Therefore for a home games when the idea is for people to really get behind their athletes this is just the right thing to put out there for our team and our country.

Monday 19 March 2012

Twas on a Sunday morning, just as the day was dawning

Between 6:49 and 7:37 on a Sunday morning!

That will be when the people of Bangor will get their change to see the Olympic torch coming through our town, on 3 June.

I shall be getting up with my camera to try and capture some images of this historic day, but I wonder how many of my fellow Bangorians will be.

Maybe this is what we get for not getting our Olympic sized pool ready in time to host a nation for training.

Saturday 17 March 2012

Osborne's cunning plan to end the North/South Divide, NOT!

So there is a divide between pay in the north and in the south. Out public sector workers nurses and teachers for example find it hard to be able to afford to live in the South East for a start and getting on the property ladder is nearly impossible, so they end up paying higher rents they they would do in a mortgage.

As a result some civil service jobs were moved from the South East out to rest of the UK. In one of my previous roles I benefited from this. I was carrying out the back office role for a London Social Security Agency offices, here in Northern Ireland.

So on with Osborne's cunning plan. Having seen more and more public sector jobs away from the South East to save money on them under Labour, Osborne is now going to do away with the National Pay Scale for public sector workers! In the example of outsourcing services to other parts of the UK there is now therefore the possibility that someone might be able to earn more than their line manager who happens to be positioned in a 'poorer' or more northern part of the UK.

George this is not the way to deal with the north south divide. This is not the way to deal with the overcrowding of London because all the best paid jobs end up being there. If this is some cunning way for you to fund cutting the 50% upper tax rate.

Here's the other thing, when I left the public sector even on that national rate of pay, I was still able to find comparative work in the private sector that paid more. Therefore by reducing the national pay scale in the North for public sector workers you are liable to be opening up and even bigger differential with the private sector and find it even harder to retain staff.

Friday 16 March 2012

1932 Summer Olympics Los Angeles: X Olympiad

The 1932 Games were held in the middle of the Great Depression. No country bid to host the Games but they were awarded to the runners up to Amsterdam the city of Los Angeles. Because of the economic situation many nations who had attended in 1928 cound not afford to send teams or as many competitors in 1932 reflected in the stats below.

Nations 37 (-9)
Competitors 1332 (-1551)
Sports 14 (-1)
Events 117 (+12)

Despite the reduction in nations there were two debutante nations Columbia and China. The most populous nation in the world made their Olympic debut with just one athlete Liu Changchun in the 100m and 200m on the track. He came last in both his heats and failed to progress.

There was an innovation in the 1932 Games that seems almost like one of those how did they survive before moments to us today. There was the introduction of the medal podium (seen here with the women's hurdles medalists) as you can see in the picture it was very roughly finished and you can see the individual planks of wood and indeed the grain of the wood that make it up.

The Los Angeles Memorial Stadium had been in existence since 1923 but was renamed the Olympic Stadium during 1932. Although not built specifically for the Olympics it is the only stadium to have hosted the Olympics twice. It is also the only Olympic Stadium that has also hosted World Series Finals and the Superbowl, fittingly American Football was a demonstration sport.

10th Street through the city was renamed Olympic Boulevard in honour of the Tenth Games a name it still bears today.

Female champion who took on the men

One of the darlings of the games was Babe Didrikson who took gold in the 80m hurdles (see above) and the javelin. She had also tied with a world record leap of compatriot Jean Shiley in the High Jump but in the jump off for gold her technique was deemed illegal those denying her triple gold. In the year prior to the Olympics she had led a team to victory in the Amateur Athletic Union Basketball tournament.

However, it was post the Games that she found her true sport. In 1935 she took up golf but was very soon denied amateur status. So in 1938 she competed in the Los Angeles Open and men's PGA event. Something that no other woman would attempt to emulate for over 60 years. In 1945 she took part in three PGA tournaments against the men and made the cut in all three (a feat that no other woman has achieved). In 1948, after competing successfully for many years on the LPGA she attempted to qualify for the US Open but was rejected by the USGA who said that the tournament was only for men. She was an Olympian who went on to be one of the champions for women's sport by taking on the men at their own game in their events.

There's something about Stella

The winner of the womens 100m was Stanisława Walasiewicz of Polan had a different impact on gender sports. Prior to the games she had been running the USA under the name Stella Walsh but just two days before she was meant to take her Oath of Citizenship she decided against it so she could compete for her native Poland in the Games. Upon her death in 1980, long after she won the gold in 100m and narrowly failed to retain it in 1936 she was found to have ambiguous genetalia that meant she could not be identified as either biologically male or female. Detailed investigations also show that she possessed both and XX (female) and an XY (male) pair of chromosones. She is thus the first intersex Olympic winner, though some controversy still remains as to whether her achievements and records should be expunged from the records.

Olympians to losses of war

Last week I mentioned some of the Dutch and Hungarian champions who were to lose their lives in the war that was to come. In 1932 there were others. One was the winner of the Individual Show Jumping and he would fall in one of the iconic battles of the Pacific campaign at Iwo Jima. His name was Takeichi Nishi a first lieutenant  in the Japanese Army.

 In 1930 he found what was to be his favourite horse in Italy, the army wouldn't pay for it so Uranus was bought from his own personal funds. They showed together around the European circuit before heading to the Olympics in 1932. It has been Japan's only equestrian medal to date.

He also competed in 1936 in Berlin but fell from Uranus mid round, before returning to military service in a Japanese army that was cutting back on cavalry and heading into tanks. It was while he was  in command of the 26th Tank Regiment under the Ogasawara Corps that he was died on the 21 March 1945. Though the American's appealed for him to surrender as the world could not face losing Baron Nishi (the title coming through his father) the showjumper, appeals he with Japanese determination refused to respond to.

Endre Kabos was another Jewish Hungarian Sabre fencer who took gold in the 1932 Team event, and repeated that along with the individual gold in 1936. He underwent five months in a forced labour camp under the Nazis before escaping and joining the Hungarian underground.  he is believed to have been defending the Magrit Bridge in November 1944 when he died.

Still with fencing Poland won only one bronze medal at these Olympics in the team Foil. Many of that team fought in the Polish army, all but one survived. The fallen was Leszek Władysław Lubicz-Nycz who had served in the Polish army since 1918, but on 22 Spetember 1939 was killed in Action near Warsaw during the September Campaign, as Germany invaded Poland. He was therefore one of the victims of World War II in its opening month.

See also:

George Clooney and Martin Luther King III Arrested for Sudan Protest

Following a protest outside the Sudanese embassy in Washington, George Clooney, Martin Luther King III, Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern; Virginia Democratic Congressman Jim Moran; and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Ben Jealous have all been arrested.

The arrests came as the campaigners were raising the issue of the humanitarian crisis that is happening at the border between Sudan and South Sudan. Yesterday Clooney was at the White House to discuss the issue with President Barack Obama. As you can see the protest was a peaceful one and those arrested did not resist being cuffed by the US Parks Police.

Here is what George Clooney was saying outside the embassy just prior to his arrest.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Warning to Danny Alexander - Stop George on cutting 50p rate! least without adequate help for the lowest earners.

When the Lib Dems took on the Chief Secretary of the Treasury role in the coalition we knew that when it came to budgets we would have someone at the very heart of making sure that the taxes and benefits would maintain a Liberal Democrat fairness.

Rumours have been circulating for a while and coming to a height today that George Osborne is considering dropping the 50p tax rate next week in the budget. If that is true what on earth has happened to we are all in this together? What will have happened to helping those that are most in need?

I do not see a way that George can simultaneously take 10% off the top rate of tax while at the same time lifting the threshold to £10,000 or even to my dream of the level of the National Minimum wage. There is no way that can be done unless say you sell off the NHS or some other major unit of Government expenditure.

If Nick Clegg thought there was a falling out over tuition fees, or last weekend over the NHS, he will have seen nothing compared to outpouring of condemnation from the party if the top rate is cut while those on minimum wage are still paying tax, having harsher restrictions on their benefits and cuts in tax credits. We have seen a number of people leave the party in recent days, if that scenario happens I'm not sure I as a membership officer can prevent even more dissatisfaction.

There is nothing worse than the membership officer opening his inbox and seeing someone giving a long or short list of reasons for which they no long feel this party fits their beliefs only to look at parts of the preamble to our constitution shining through in the things that they still believe in.

That is why I want to turn to two key, interlinked sentences from that preamble ahead of next weeks budget:

"We will foster a strong and sustainable economy which encourages the necessary wealth creating processes, develops and uses the skills of the people and works to the benefit of all, with a just distribution of the rewards of success."


"We recognise that the independence of individuals is safeguarded by their personal ownership of property, but that the market alone does not distribute wealth or income fairly."

Therefore we need to get that balance right, a just distribution at the bottom end, should not be at the expense of a decrease on the marginal rate for the top amount of top earners. Also we need to be aware that for years now the market has not been distributing wealth fairly and many have not had a pay rise at the bottom end while many, especially in retail but also elsewhere, are living in almost daily fear of losing their cups altogether.

There are ways to give wealth creators a tax break while still stimulating growth better that cutting the top rate. A cut in corporation tax. A 0% rate employers contribution on new employees for first 12 months of employment etc. These are tax breaks for wealth creators that only happen when they create wealth and jobs for others.

Danny you cannot be the champion of the world, but at least keep being the champion of the low paid in this time of austerity. If you don't who knows where that will leave the party.

Falkirk Herald tells Eric "It's Time to Go"

The Falkirk Herald who have in the last two general elections been generous in their coverage to all candidates from all parties have, following the trial of Eric Joyce one of the local MPs, finally made their feelings know on the MP who pleaded guilty to assault charges.

Publish an open letter from themselves in today's edition they say:

"Dear Eric,
"In more than 10 years as MP for Falkirk, you have consistently hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
"You retained enough support to be re-elected two years ago but the latest disgraceful episode in a House of Commons bar is a step too far.
"Your conviction for assault brought shame not only on yourself but on the people of Falkirk.
"It is apparent to us that you have lost the respect of many members of the public and it is our view that you are no longer a fit person to represent this constituency.
"We call on you to resign immediately and seek whatever help you need to tackle the issues that have led to this sorry situation. 
"The Falkirk Herald."

Frank and too the point. We wait and see how the MP will respond.

Blogged elsewhere: Second Class LGBT Citizen's Once Again

I've blogged over at LGBT+ Lib Dems Northern Ireland

With the Westminster Government announcing its consultation into equal marriage, and the Scottish Parliament currently considering the responses to its similar consultation, once again two speed UK leaves those of us who are LGBT behind in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom where gay couples cannot adopt.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom where men who have had sex with men cannot give blood after 12 months of no MSM sex but ever.

And now Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom where there is no consultation, or apparently even active consideration of marriage equality.

Continues here

1st Amendment Censorship, Texas Abortion Law and Doonesbury Day 4

Today Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury strip gets even more cutting on the issue of Texas Abortion Law.

To be fair the use if the word rape is inaccurate. As rape has to be the penetration without consent of a penis. However, the emotion scarring may well be the same. The fact that the largely Male republicans in Texas were the ones who passed this law means that the emotional consequences of such an intrusion have probably not been given the weight they deserve.

If you are not getting you're regularly scheduled Doonesbury in your paper in the USA. I hope you enjoy.

Wednesday 14 March 2012

1st Amendment Censorship, Texas Abortion Law and Doonesbury Day 3

Day 3 of Garry Trudeau's take on the Texas Abortion Law strip for Doonesbury brings in the name of Texas Governor and former GOP Presidential Candidate Rick Perry who signed the law into being.

The doctor is reading the prescribed words regarding abortion as obviously he cannot be trusted to aim the words at the recipient as he would be discussing cancer or HIV with a recently diagnosed patient.

© 2012 Garry Trudeau , Universal Press Syndicate 

If - with Liberal apologies to Rudyard Kipling

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

If you want a free, fair and open society, one that gets a balance between the equality, liberty and community.

If you think that someone's poverty or ignorance should not keep them trapped. Nor that you don't need to conform to some hypothetical norm to get by?

If you believe that every individuals dignity, freedom and well-being is paramount. That they should have the right to develop the skills and talents that they have, with a freedom of conscience.

If you believe that power should be in the hands of the most local level it possibly can. To react to the needs of individuals to meet their needs as best as can be.

If you feel that diversity is something to be fostered, championed and celebrated, rather than something to fear and malign.

If you consider that creativity is something to be let fly, to grow, to flourish, rather than be trapped, tied down or discouraged.

If you believe that the state can manage to act as an enabler for all of the above, allowing people to contribute to the communities around them, not just to follow but to take part in decisions.

If you believe we have a we have a legacy of our planet and its resources, to be handed on to generations to come in as good a state, if not better able to cope than we inherited it?.

If you believe that we cannot be an island in all things, due to the interdependence of many issues that affect us. But instead that we can and should work with other nations to find solutions, and take an active role in doing so.

If you believe that the state should encourage those who can to create wealth, yet also know that there are those who the state needs to support.

Then you are a Lib Dem my friend. But if those that represent us forget any of these things you have to stand up, speak up and be heard to defend the beliefs at the core of what makes us who we are. Because that is Liberal too.

Footnote based on the Preamble to the Liberal Democrat Constitution

Sadly today we've lost Chris Ward because others have made it hard for him to follow the above. It comes following the resignation of James Graham, and on the same day as Daniel Furr. The next day Liz Williams also announced her resignation.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

75 Years English English until the American's say stop

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort. Opening lines of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien 1937


In a street in Southampton, England there lived a public house. Not a nasty, dirty, wet pub, filled with the end of cigarettes and an oozy smell, not yet a drt, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was themed on a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

However, the Orcs of Hollywood movie lawyers didn't like the fact that a quaint pub named after a character from English literature had been there since 1989. I know I had a pint in there while I was a student on a visit to Southampton. Many of the patrons and staff are Tolkien fans, and by that I mean have read the books, and reread the books, and probably not just four of them. 

The lawyers for Middle Earth Enterprises who are trying to profit from the 75 year old icon of English literature because they have a film out later this year that they are charged with marketing. So they want the comfy hobbit water hole to rebrand. 

Rebrand as what?

How about Rivendell? Or maybe in light of the attack on them Minas Tirith? 

The Hobbit is Southampton is hardly likely to detract from the profits of Middle Earth Enterprises. For a start you have to go there, order a drink and enjoy the atmosphere. Apparently they own the copyright including the titles of the works, the names of characters contained within as well as the names of places, objects and events within them, and certain short phrases and sayings from the works.

So I may not be able to review The H*****, and tell you about how well Martin Freeman plays B**** B****** of B** E**. When the film comes out in December. May not be able to talk about T** R*** and how B**** B****** with the help of G****** the G*** and the rest including the dwarfs (see I think they are excluded from Saul Zaentz's copyright.

If you agree that this is just petty legal action and an American trying to encroach on what is English and British heritage then go an like their Save the Hobbit Facebook page.

Footnote There may, or may not, be other pubs called The Hobbit but i'm not telling Middle-earth Enterprises where they may, or may not, be.

Five Lib Dem MPs call for rethink of #NHS Bill

add "declines to support the bill in its current form" and calls for an urgent summit of the royal colleges, professional bodies, patients' organisations and the government to plan health reforms based on the coalition agreement. 

It appears that five Liberal Democrat MPs Andrew George, John Pugh, Greg Mulholland, Adrian Sanders and David Ward have listened to Spring Conference. Not necessarily how votes went down over the weekend but the body of the speeches from the debate on Sunday. They have tabled to above amendment on the Health and Social Care Bill opposition day debate. 

They are not leaving it up solely to the Lib Dem Lords to come to their conclusion, the discretion given by conference removing those lines on Sunday, but having heard conference and the views from the professional bodies are looking for the best way forward. The way in which those in the health profession who know what is required at point of delivery can help shape what is required rather than leaving it up to politicians whimsy.

1st Amendment Censorship, Texas Abortion Law and Doonesbury Day 2

Garry Trudeau carries on with is Doonesbury strip looking at the Texas Abortion Law.

Today it features a legislator called Sid Patrick an amalgam of Sid Miller Texas Representative and state Senator Dan Patrick.

Miller when talking about cuts to Planned Parenthood clinics last year said, women who lose their family planning provider can find services elsewhere at "faith, community-based pregnancy care centers". Of course these locations unlike Planned Parenthood don't provide any type of medical care, no cancer screenings, STD Tests, Pap smears or oral contraception.

The 'slut' part of the cartoon refers to the comments that Rush Limbaugh made recently on his right-wing radio show at a student who testified before a congressional committee about the increasing cost of birth control. He referred to her, as she said she had to ask partners to help pay for the cost of this as a 'slut' and an 'prostitute'.

Anyway as I promised this week, I'll be running the Donnesbury strip so here is today's.

© 2012 Garry Trudeau , Universal Press Syndicate 

Monday 12 March 2012

Eric Joyce:- I announce my resigniation....

Eric Joyce making his statement today
...from the Labour Party.

So there was growing speculation leading up to 4:15 of what the personal statement from Eric Joyce the MP for Falkirk would contain.

He admitted that his behaviour in the Strangers Bar was not befitting of anyone in the House, or anywhere. He said he will be following the restrictions of his sentence the the precincts of the Palace of Westminster as elsewhere and that there were personal issues that he had to deal with.

He apologised to the MPs and Councillors who he has assaulted and who the court last Friday ordered him to pay damages. As well as to the Police Officers who were involved in his arrest. As well as his constituents who he would apologise too elsewhere and in other ways.

He thanked the messages of support from all sides of the House of Commons and the Lords.

Then he came to the final statement.

" I have today tendered my resignation as a member of the Labour party to my party leader."

So Falkirk now have an Independent MP by the name of Eric Joyce, with no connections currently or in the future to any political party.

His statement in full:

"Thank you, Mr Speaker. Hon. Members will be aware of the events in the Strangers Bar on 22 February, during which the standard of my conduct fell egregiously below what is required of a Member of this House or, indeed, of anyone, anywhere. I am grateful for this opportunity to apologise without reservation to the House, and, in particular, to the hon. Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew), my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Phil Wilson), the hon. Members for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy), for Elmet and Rothwell (Alec Shelbrooke) and for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price), Councillors Luke Mackenzie and Ben Maney, police officers on the night and, indeed, everyone else affected by my actions that evening; clearly that will not be an exhaustive list. They have all shown considerable grace in their public comment, for which I am very grateful. I do, of course, have other apologies to make, including to my constituents, and I will take other opportunities outside this place to do so at greater length.
"Sir, I would like to express my thanks to Members on both sides of the House, and indeed the other place, who have contacted me to express concern, however undeserved it is on my part. Clearly, I have a number of personal issues to address and you can be assured that this will take place. In the meantime, Members will know that certain short-term constraints have been quite rightly placed on me by the court. I will, of course, observe them strictly within the parliamentary precincts as well as elsewhere.
"I would also like to inform the House that I have today tendered my resignation as a member of the Labour party to my party leader. Thank you, Sir."

Wiggins achievement in perspective

Wiggins in yellow with his Team Sky support
earlier this week
 "I'm on that list of riders who won Paris‑Nice, the Dauphiné. There's just one left now to win."

So said Bradley Wiggins yesterday after winning the 2012 Paris-Nice to add to his 2011 win in the Criterium de Dauphiné Liberé. But who else in on that list?

Well 3 time Tour de France winner Louison Bobet (1954-6), five time Tour Champions Jacques Anquetil (1957, 1961-4) and Eddy Merckx (1969-72, 1974) and Raymond Poulidor who while he never won le Tour did win the 1964 Vuelta a España. It means that of the five names of those who have won the two eight-day Tours only Wiggins has yet to win a Grand Tour and along with Poulidor, who was up against Merckx is the only one yet not to have won le Tour.

Here's another thing, apart from Poulidor, Wiggins is the only one to have won the Dauphiné first. Anquetil thrice (1963, 65-6), Merckx (1971) and now Wiggins 2011-12 are the only riders to be champions of both at the same time. The first time the other two did it they went on to win their third Tours. 

Wiggins isn't talking himself up too much ahead of July instead saying:

"I don't know if I'm a favourite [for the Tour] but I'm one of maybe five riders who can do something there [overall] this summer. I said Paris-Nice was a stepping stone, no disrespect for Paris-Nice. But I must continue that progression to July now. Lance Armstrong warned me recently not to burn too many matches for July. It's certainly a long trail."

But he is taking the advise of the seven times winner. Only the Tours of Catolonia and Romandie, his defense in the Dauphiné are where he will be competing ahead of the three weeks in July in which he could make history. 

But he already has as a winner of both, indeed a concurrent holder of, the Dauphiné and Paris-Nice titles.

1st Amendment Censorship, Texas Abortion Law and Doonesbury Day 1

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

I've watched this weekend anxiously my own political party have a heated debate on a key issue of health reform. Each side was allowed to put its case. 

Listening as I often do, through the wonders of the internet, to American radio and TV, or reading their press I know that sometimes that debate is stiffled. Pro-Choice and Pro-Gay messaging is often knocked down, without any balance of the argument from the other side. This from a country that loves to talk up the freedoms granted to their citizens by their bill of rights, which includes the 4th Amendment above.

You see there is a freedom of speech and the press. Yet this week certain parts of the press are using their freedom to stifle one of their syndicated cartoon writers freedom of speech via their publications. Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury strip holds the mirror up to the bi-polar nature of American political thought. Where, you are either for or against something it seems, you cannot see good points of something while objecting to it overall. 

This week, the target of the cartoon in the Texas State Abortion Law which now requires women seeking an abortion to visit the abortion clinic twice! The first is 24 hours before the abortion can be carried out is so that a sonogram can be taken of the fetus. The mother can opt out of seeing the images and hearing the heaertbeat, but must listen to the description of the sonogram. There is also at this first visit be advise as to the risks, alternatives etc. before the mother is sent home to sleep on the matter. 

It forces the mother who probably already has taken sometime thinking about the decision to even attend for an abortion, to spend another night having been introduced to the fetus and given all the information that she wants. Both the added time penalty and this wait between the actions on day one and the termination are seen as adding emotional strain to women who are already going through all sorts of turmoil. 

However, the cartoon which tries to point out the turmoil from the women's perspective has been pulled from it's syndication slot in some papers, or moved from the family to editorial section of others. The reason supporters of this Law give for it is that it serves educational and awareness purposes. I would argue that pulling the Doonesbury cartoon removes the education and awareness from the women's perspective to a lot of America.

If you are reading this and can't find this week's Doonesbury in your paper you will probably be able to find it online at their website. But as a counter to those who want to censor freedom of speech I'll be displaying this week's strips.

© 2012 Garry Trudeau , Universal Press Syndicate

Sunday 11 March 2012

Wiggins win Paris-Nice

Last Autumn Mark Cavendish became the second Brit after Tom Simpson to pull on the Rainbow Jersey on the road. Today his 'new' teammate Bradley Wiggins did the same in Paris-Nice.

The Paris-Nice stage race is often seen as an early season warm up to the Tour de France and Team Sky can be proud of their performance this week. Wiggins came second in the opening Time Trail but took the lead at the end of stage two and has never been beaten.

On stage 2 in the win Wiggins found himself on the right side of a crash and in the small leading group. On stage 5 he attacked on the climb and although Vestra beat him to the line he had done enough to stamp his authority on the race. On stage 6 he found himself in a an early group that was allowed to get away along with Vestra, before 2/3 of the field came back to them.

But up against the clock today he beat Lieuwe Vestra of Vaconsoliel by 2 seconds to extend his lead to 8 seconds overall.

An impressive win and a show of the form that Wiggins is carrying at the moment

A little bit of Songs of Praise I

I somehow don't think I'll be playing this bass line the next time we play this in Sunday worship. Though as I am down there now for practise who knows.

Saturday 10 March 2012

Has the amendment from the Sheffield Conference in March 2011 been delivered?

Here is something for my fellow Lib Dem Conference Reps to consider before voting on the Emergency Motion debate tomorrow.

Dr Charles West and Dr Evan Harris, who proposed the amendment, report back.

Conference therefore calls on Liberal Democrats in Parliament to amend the Health Bill to provide for:

I) More democratically accountable commissioning.

The Government says:
“Commissioning will now be more democratically accountable. Clinical Commissioning Groups will have to involve Councils’ Health and Wellbeing Boards in commissioning decisions.”
[Source: Government leaflet at Gateshead Conference]

The true position:

  • The Bill has had no significant amendments in this area [see Schedule 1, clauses 189-193]
  • The Coalition Agreement called for elected members on commissioning bodies. The Bill never permitted this [see Coalition Programme page 24-25]
  • The Bill provided that the Health and wellbeing Boards need not have naymore than one or a minority of councillors on them. That has not changed. [Clause 193]
  • The only duty on commissioning groups is to consult the HWB on a commissioning plan. If the HWB disagrees it has no power to stop the CCG and there is no statutory right of appeal. [Clause 25, section 14Z12]
  • Overview Scrutiny Committees have lost the automatic right to call in a health decision to the Secretary of State so the new NHS would be less democratic than before. [Clause 189]
II) A much greater degree of co-terminosity between local authorities and commissioning areas

The  Government says:
"There is now a clear presumption in favour of co-terminosity . We expect the vast majority of commissioning groups to sit within social care authority boundaries. But where this is not the case, Health and Wellbeing Boards will be able to object to any boundaries that cross social care boundaries."

[Source: Government leaflet at Gateshead Conference, dropping the word “much” from the motion”]

The true position

  • There has been no amendment to the Bill and there is no mention in the Bill of co-terminosity [Clause 24]
  • There is no statutory right of Health and Wellbing Boards (who could have only one councillor on them) to object to CCG boundaries let alone to veto them. The decision on boundaries is made by the Commissioning Board 9a quango) with no statutory duty to even have regard to HWB's views [Clause 24, ssection 14A & B]
  • There is no role for Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee [Clause 24, section 14A & B]

III) No decision about the spending of NHS funds to be made in private and without proper consultation, as can take place by the proposed GP consortia.

- Delivered

IV) The complete ruling out of any competition based on price to prevent loss-leading corporate providers under-cutting NHS tariffs, and to ensure that healthcare providers 'compete' on quality of care.

- Impossible to deliver. Tariffs cannot reflect the full complexity of services, and EU and UK
competition law will not permit the NHS to ignore price.

V) New private providers to be allowed only where there is no risk of 'cherry-picking' which would destabilise or undermine the existing NHS service relied upon for emergencies and complex cases, and where the needs of equity, research and training are met.

The Government says:

"The tariff will accurately reflect the clinical complexity of the service to stop any new providers from undercutting NHS services. New requirements on transparency for providers will ensure that they are only allowed to refuse patients on clinical grounds*, so they won’t be able to cherry-pick the profitable easy cases"
[Source: Government leaflet at Gateshead Conference]

The true position

  • The Sheffield Conference called for a duty on commissioners and Monitor to avoid destabilising existing essential services from the outsourcing of profitable services, such as elective orthopaedics, making a trauma service unviable. Amendments doing this tabled by Andrew George MP were not accepted by the Government
  • Refusing patients on "clinical grounds" and getting the same price for the easier clinical cases that are taken is actually the definition of how to "cherry-pick the profitable easy cases" that the motion rejected.

VI) NHS commissioning being retained as a public function in full compliance with the Human Rights Act and Freedom of Information laws, using the skills and experience of existing NHS staff rather than the sub-contracting of commissioning to private companies.

The Government says:
"Commissioning groups will be public bodies, not private organisations, and will be subject to these pieces of legislation. Commissioning decisions will have to be taken in-house by commissioning groups, not outsourced to private companies so it cannot be privatized."
[Source: Government leaflet at Gateshead Conference]

The true position

  • There have been no amendments preventing the wholesale privatisation of commissioning work referred to in the Sheffield motion. The original Bill already provided that the final decision be made by the CCG, but the Government's plan is to allow and encourage the outsourcing of commissioning work to private companies, called "commissioning support" companies.
  • Designing care pathways and evaluation the quality of rival bids, should not be done by private companies with vester interests which are not subject to FoI or the HRA.
  • The spending of £60 Billion of NHS money should remain a public function
VII) The continued separation of the commissioning and provision of services to prevent conflicts of

The Government says:
"Commissioning Groups will now be required to establish robust procedures to tackle conflicts of interest"
[Source: Government leaflet at Gateshead Conference]

The true position:

  • All the Bill now does is to require CCGs to have a register of interests. But there is no sanction against such conflicts unlike in Council. The register doesn't apply to the companies doing "commissioning support".

VIII) An NHS, responsive to patients’ needs, based on co-operation rather than competition, and
which promotes quality and equity not the market.

The Government says:
"Monitor will have a primary duty to promote patient interests rather than to promote competition and can promote co-operation between providers when it is in the interests of patients."
[Source: Government leaflet at Gateshead Conference]

The true position – it's been made worse.

  • After the Sheffield motion the Government increase the promotion of the market by commissioners by increasing the duty on commissioning groups and the NHS Commissioning Board to promote patient choice more than to tackle access and health inequalities [Clause 25, section 14S versus amended 14U]
  • Monitor's duties are only to prevent anti-competitive behaviour [Clause 61(3)] where it deems this works against the patient interest. An amendment to ensure Monitor had a duty to prevent anti-collaborative behaviour in these circumstances was rejected by the Government. [Amendment 165 Baroness Finlay]
  • The part of the Bill [Clause 73] which gives Monitor its enforcement powers omits to do so in respect of integration and co-operation.

Diagnosis: In summary, of the 8 broad (or in some cases narrow) requirements that this conference
passed, at most 3 have been delivered and 5 have clearly not. That is why even the non-political
Royal Colleges, who have read the Bill, are calling for the Bill to be dropped.

Back to me

We are being told that everything that Conference asked for last year has been settled. As you can see above it clearly has not. We do believe in devolving power out to the Trusts but with that we still expect accountability which is clearly missing from what has been done. The Bill still is full of holes and no matter what the Bill with Shirley Williams' name attached says will not save the NHS. Only a rejection of that motion tomorrow stands a chance of doing so.

I'm not Andy Burnham's poddle Nick! #LDConf

I hated to hear our leader say during his Q&A

"We need to say tomorrow we're on Shirley Williams' side & not on Andy Burnham's."

For a start I also hated the fact that one of the two motions on the NHS yesterday bore the subtitle The Shirley William's Motion. I thought as Liberal Democrats that were not in the business of political personality cults, but rather into testing each option on the facts.

The fact that even with Our Shirl on the motion it only won by 29 votes after transfers should tell Nick that it isn't just about Andy Burnham. 280 Liberal Democrats voting reps at conference are not and were not persuaded by the screams of Andy Burnham.

Many of us have been following with forensic scrutiny the coming and goings of every step along the passage of this bill. Even last Spring just after its publication we were ready to tell you and our MPs what to change. Yes Shirley was one of those, but so were all many of medical professionals within our own party. Many of them are still telling us that this Bill needs more time, shouldn't be rushed so that you and David Cameron can conveniently put it into the Queen's Speech. However, it is possible that those that voted a second preference on this weren't aware of the depths of issues and saw the words save, NHS and Shirley Williams all together without a great deal of thought, I've spoken to one voting rep since who did just that.

We're not against reform, we know it is needed. But we're saying you need to stop and think again. If that means dropping the current Bill and rethinking then that is what is needed. We know what was agreed in the Coalition Agreement and this is still going far beyond that.

The Liberal Democrats I know is not about personality. Indeed on occasions as you know Nick, bringing a big name to bear on a vote when conference is in a volatile mood can be the end of what is wanted. So don't tempt us to turn our backs on following Shirley, we might just do that.

So the Lib Dems are not debating Dropping the NHS Bill, but...

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
Save the NHS - The Shirley Williams Motion 309
Withdrawal of the Health and Social Care Bill 280 after transfers

So the result of the ballot on the emergency motion came as a disappointment to me. The outrage that flowed on Twitter afterwards less so following on from the number of tweets urging conference to drop the bill in the last 24 hours. That was something that as I had access to a left of centre blog with more Labour readers I chose to write about elsewhere.

However, there are a few things to note about that outrage.

Firstly there have been 1,000 amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill. The majority of these have come from Liberal Democrats and not from Labour. So don't believe the lie that Labour did all they could to change this bill.

Last year the Liberal Democrats did pass a motion that had 13 sizeable changes on them to make the Health and Social Care Bill fairer. Of these 6 are now included in the Bill, as demanded by Lib Dem conference last May. So see the Lib Dem activists have been working on getting these changes for over a year, not just the last 24 and not just the fours hours from 9am to 1pm that the Emergency Motion Ballot was open. Indeed Liberal Democrats have been writing to their MPs of ALL parties and yes that does include the Northern Irish parties about making the right changes to this Bill, not just hounding Lib Dem activists for the last 24 hours.

The vote itself was within 30 votes. Yes it was on transfers, but you don't hear any Lib Dems lamenting that the decision is made under AV, only those who were urging us from outside to vote to drop the bill. Some are lamenting the failure of democracy, but Lib Dem party democracy has yet to run its course. Sure the establishment motion with the witty moniker Shirley Williams* has got through but there will still be a vote on that motion, democracy within my party had not ended yet, there will be a debate, there will be a vote. And with less that 30 votes in it when it comes to the emergency motion nobody can tell how it will go once the arguments are laid out (I speak from experience there).

What you may have are people who not knowing the issues fully transferred their second preferences to the issue that bore the name of Shirley, but if the Drop the Bill speaker(s), and there will be at least one, called in the dabate put a strong enough case, there may be swing votes in the hall that reverse the decision of today (again Lib Dem Conference can be a volatile place in this mood).

There have been a number of personal attacks to me on my own Twitter feed. Obviously from people who have no idea of my stance on this matter, even with my current Twibbon. Some saying that MY Voters will never vote for me again. Thankfully I know from the messages (by Twitter or email) that my voters have sent to me over tuition fees, over taxation, over the NHS over the past 21 months that actually my voters, know exactly where I stand on such issues, and more, are would quite happily vote for me again. They also know that I have moved away from Scotland so I may have to find a way to get back.

As for the Lib Dems we will survive. We will continue to fight on. We have brought changes to what a majority Conservative Government would have wanted to do with the NHS, in time people will see that, because their manifesto will take them further along the line, doing the things that Lib Dems in Government have prevented them from doing.

Update BBC New briefly went across the Q&A session with Nick Clegg who said:

"We need to say tomorrow we're on Shirley Williams' side & not on Andy Burnham's."

Seeing as I thought we were an evidence based not a personality based party I find the assumption that the 280 Conference reps who voted to drop the bill are being knocked aside with such a line from the leader. If he hasn't listened to the people, and isn't listening to his own reps so far, we'll have to make him listen in the morning.

* Having seen this tactic used by the SNP in 2007 I'm seriously considering a Constitutional Amendment that no motion entering the emergency ballot can pull on the name recognition of any party member over the substance of the arguments.