Friday, 26 February 2010

Home Office report recommends labelling of airbrushed images aimed at children

The Home Office has published an independent review into the sexualisation of young people, conducted by psychologist Linda Papadopoulos.

The report warns that children are being increasingly exposed to sexual imagery through advertising, music videos, computer games, magazines and some children's clothing lines.

From the BBC:
Unless sexualisation is accepted as harmful, we will miss an important opportunity… to broaden young people's beliefs about where their values lies," said Dr Papadopoulos, a psychologist. The report's 36 recommendations include calling for games consoles, mobile phones and some computers to be sold with parental controls already switched on."

Other recommendations include banning "sexualised" music videos before the TV watershed, making digital literacy a compulsory part of the curriculum from age 5, and labelling airbrushed images:
Evidence suggests that even brief exposure to airbrushed images can lead to acute body dissatisfaction. To help combat this, efforts to raise levels of media literacy should be accompanied by initiatives aimed at encouraging society to take a more critical and questioning approach to the harmful perpetuation of unrealistic ideals. I therefore recommend the introduction of a system of ratings symbols for photographs to show the extent to which they have been altered. This is particularly critical in magazines targeting teen and pre-teen audiences.
[Sexualisation of Young People Review by Dr Linda Papadopoulos, page 83]

The BBC, in reporting the findings, indulges in a little airbrushing of its own:

The LDV Friday Five: 26 February 2010

It's Friday. It's five o'clock. Here's a fistful of lists that sum up the LDV week:

5 most-read stories on LDV this week

1. Times report: Tories “make inroads” into Lib Dem support in south-west England. (But where’s the evidence?) (15) by Stephen Tall.
2. Why Gordon Brown will start the TV election debates with an advantage over David Cameron (2) by Mark Pack.
3. BBC drops Lib Dems from Question Time, again #bbcqt (11) by Mark Pack.
4. The Saturday debate: Burkas – to ban or not to ban? (48) by Mark Pack.
5. Those Lib Dem donation figures in full (Q4, 2009) (7) by Stephen Tall.

5 active LDV Members' Forum threads

Tower Block of Commons
Death taxes
Twitter as a campaigning tool
National Bullying Helpline/Christine Pratt
Latest Lib Dem Voice Survey

5 biggest groups on ACT

1. Liberal Youth
2. Nick Clegg Meets...
3. NO2ID
4. Approved Candidates

5 top reader search returns to get to LDV

(excluding Liberal Democrat Voice or its variants)

Children's operations cancelled over non-transferable CRB checks

A report by the Royal College of Surgeons, published today, reveals that children's NHS operations are being cancelled because of the chaotic introduction of new Government safeguarding regulations. From the report:
Overzealous interpretation of the requirements by NHS Trusts and long delays in the system mean that NHS surgeons cannot move between Trusts quickly enough to deal with rare cases, of which there are many in children, and to cover absences. The RCS is calling for immediate roll out of passport-style arrangements that allow NHS staff who have already received an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check for one Trust to be recognised across the health service. Is the NHS a national service or not?

Since October 2009 the Vetting and Barring Scheme has introduced new standards for checking anyone who works with children, including surgeons. However, many Trusts are insisting that NHS surgeons who have already had an enhanced CRB check go through the same process whenever they work in a different Trust, even though the process can take several months. Some trainee surgeons have had more than 10 separate Criminal Records Bureau checks in two years. Read more here.

Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary said,
This is a disgrace. The Government has implemented these new regulations without making sure that they will actually work on the ground.

When top surgeons have already been CRB checked, it’s madness to restrict them to one hospital when they are needed all around the country.

Protecting children must always be a top priority, but the situation has descended into complete farce with potentially dire consequences for patients and NHS staff.

Ministers have buried their heads in the sand despite mounting evidence of how badly flawed this system is.

We need a simple but effective system to protect our children. Once you’re CRB checked for one Trust, that should be enough to mean you can work in any hospital.

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

How much of a battle does Bercow face in Buckingham?

Further developments in Buckingham, John Bercow MP's constituency, where convention dictates that other parties don't put up a candidate against the incumbent Speaker:

UKIP is looking forward to a large donation, whilst claiming that fundraising on Bercow's behalf breaches Parliamentary rules. Meanwhile, Buckingham Liberal Democrats announce their plan for the General Election.

The Times reports that a UKIP member from Buckingham has complained to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards after receiving a letter from fundraising team "The Friends of Speaker Bercow":

[John Russell] has written to the commissioner expressing concern that The Friends of Speaker Bercow may be breaching parliamentary rules by appearing to operate in conjunction with the apolitical Office of the Speaker.

Strict rules govern how MPs electioneer and politicians are not allowed to use the machine of the taxpayer-funded civil service to help them with their campaigning, or exploit the services of Commons officials who are also paid by the state.

The so-called Friends of Speaker Bercow are a group of fundraisers who are trying to drum up £40,000 of donations to bankroll the MP’s constituency campaign at the election.

The letter from Bercow's Friends reportedly says,

As Speaker of the House of Commons, in accordance with convention, John has had to resign his membership of the Conservative Party in order to fulfil the duties of his office. He will be standing at the forthcoming election without the financial support of a major political party. This means that John will have to fully fund his own campaign and this is why we need your help.

Nigel Farage, the former UKIP leader, is standing for the seat where political mega-donor Stuart Wheeler plans to give the party £100,000 to help it unseat Bercow.

Buckingham Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, have chosen a spokesperson rather than a candidate for the General Election. The local party's website explains the appointment of Marie-Louise Rossi:

Marie-Louise has been chosen by the local party members but will not stand as the Parliamentary Candidate for the Liberal Democrats in Buckingham, in accordance with the convention that the major parties do not oppose the incumbent Speaker. She will make the case locally for the Party's Manifesto, speaking on both national and local issues.

There's already been debate here on the Voice, about John Bercow's prospects in the General Election:

Stephen asked whether candidates should stand against Bercow in the Buckingham constituency and Philip Young asked, "Why shouldn’t Buckingham Liberal Democrats join in?"

Will the arrival of UKIP cash, or indeed a Liberal Democrat spokesperson, make a difference to the result in the seat with the highest Conservative majority of 2005?

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Election 2010 countdown (this'll help concentrate the mind!)

I've set my timer to count down to 7am on May 6.

That's when the polls open for the local elections, and - who knows? - quite possibly the General Election too.

(If you can't view this widget on your mobile or in your feed reader, suffice it to say: it's really really soon!)

Daily View 2x2: 26 February 2010

Welcome to Friday, and with another busy campaigning weekend ahead, political parties are counting down the days and counting up the cash:

2 Election War Chest Stories

Labour opts for bargain £4m campaign with no posters
For the first time in more than 60 years, Labour does not plan to use its scarce resources on high street posters, such as those that the big-spending Conservatives have already set up across Britain. Instead, officials say that Gordon Brown will make a virtue out of necessity with a campaign that will lean on the “word of mouth” community organising techniques that helped Barack Obama into the White House. [Times]

Monday, 22 February 2010

Tories send advance party to reassure Brussels

The Telegraph reports that shadow Business Secretary Ken Clarke is going to Brussels tomorrow for "secret talks" with members of the European Commission:
Mr Clarke, who will be accompanied by Mark Prisk and John Penrose, junior shadow business ministers, is expected to seek concessions on financial and employment regulations during the meetings, which are not listed on the European Commission's official diary.

Fiona Hall MEP, Leader of the European Liberal Democrats, said,

"The question is what deal will he do? Will he sell out his own beliefs or those of his anti-European colleagues?"

and suggested that such secret talks meant that "the Tories have something to hide".

You can read the full story here.

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Power 2010 - polls close midnight

A reminder, if you've been putting it off, that you only have until midnight tonight to vote in the Power 2010 online poll:

What 5 reforms will bring real change to UK democracy? You can vote for as many reforms as you like, but just once for each reform.

The top 5 ideas become the POWER2010 Pledge - the backbone of our nationwide campaign for change at the next election. Vote now.

You can see which five proposals are leading at the moment, and as Mark has already blogged, it's worth bearing in mind the options you don't like, as well as the ones you do.

So don't put it off any longer: vote now. It only takes a few seconds.

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

The elixir of writing

Charlie Connelly is one of my favourite authors: a man so gifted that he only has to write a list and lo: humour, rhythm, profound insight. I envy his milkman.

His Twelve Tips For Writers is writing in a nutshell. Read it if you write, or wish you could. Then write.

"There will be days when you read something you’ve written and you’ll think it’s the worst thing ever committed to paper or computer. Don’t panic, and certainly don’t delete the lot. Go away, read it again the next day, it will probably look better. It’ll need work, but it’ll look better. Your mind can be a right bastard sometimes."

Friday, 19 February 2010

The LDV Friday Five: 19 February 2010

It's Friday. It's five o'clock. Here's a fistful of lists that sum up the LDV week:

5 most-read stories on LDV this week

1. Clegg sacks Jenny Tonge (73) by The Voice.
2. How Lib Dem members rate the performances of our shadow cabinet (2) by Stephen Tall.
3. Are these the three most fanciable Lib Dem MPs? (13) by Stephen Tall.
4. How can we sell the Single Transferable Vote to the public? (39) by Stephen Tall.
5. Jonny Oates writes: The Lib Dems’ campaign slogan – Building a fairer Britain (40) by Jonny Oates.

5 active LDV Members' Forum threads

Another Web Site - Rant & Whine!
Change logo - Riso
Can foreigners without a vote join the Lib Dems?
Consent for photos with kids
Cinema Advert

5 biggest groups on ACT

1. Liberal Youth
2. Nick Clegg Meets...
3. NO2ID
4. Approved Candidates

5 top reader search returns to get to LDV

(excluding Liberal Democrat Voice or its variants)
1. luciana berger (n/c)
2. jenny tonge (-)
3. laurence boyce (-1)
4. how to become a lib dem mp (n/c)
5. liberal revue on facebook (-)

5 recent Lib Dem tweets

>> @Lucy_Watt Purnell's decision must have been a difficult one. Politics is an addictive life that is difficult to leave.
>> @julianhuppert Interesting morning looking at what #LibDem #Cambridge City Council is doing to cope with empty shops. is great!
>> @LDKatz71 The Tories' voting record on gay rights spelled out:
>> @CllrIainRoberts Weekly residents' email is done; do I actually have time to make a few phone calls? Could be.
>> @scotlibdems Rising unemployment shows Labour has let down Scotland says Alistair Carmichael MP @acarmichaelmp

If you are a Lib Dem who tweets, and would like to be added to Ryan's Lib Dem Tweets aggregator, drop him an email at

That's it from the LDV Friday Five. Let the weekend commence in 5-4-3-2-1 …

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Daily View 2x2: 19 February 2010

Ah, Friday! It's the 336th anniversary of the Peace of Westminster. It's also nearly the end of (relative) peace in Westminster, as the Parliamentary Recess draws to a close.

2 Must-Read Bloggers' Anecdotes

What are other Liberal Democrat bloggers saying? Here are two news-related stories that caught my eye from the Liberal Democrat Blogs aggregator:

Spotted any other great posts in the last day from blogs that aren't on the aggregator? Do post up a comment sharing them with us all.

Have you donated yet?

Lib Dem Voice is asking our readers to consider making a donation to help five candidates in the imminent general election. This week's candidate is Willie Rennie, victor in the 2006 Dunfermline by-election. Click here to read more. Click here to donate to Willie's campaign.

2 Local Party Stories

David Cameron: I will impose all-women shortlists

Mr Cameron said that as the general election, which must be held by June, was so close, the party was already taking advantage of rules which allowed Central Office to impose shortlists on constituency parties.

This had happened twice already, and the Tory leader confirmed that if any more Conservative MPs stood down in winnable seats in coming weeks, he would consider making the short-lists women only. [Telegraph]

Lib Dems gain Ivybridge Filham, South Hams DC

Lib Dems gain Ivybridge Filham, South Hams DC
(From left: Councillor Tony Barber; Anna Pascoe, Lib Dem PPC for South West Devon; Stephen Kearney, Chair of South West Devon Liberal Democrats; Councillor Keith Baldry; Jill Barber)

Liberal Democrat Tony Barber has won the Ivybridge Filham by-election, following the resignation of the Tory councillor.

The result:

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Wood Green diagonal crossing: more details

As I blogged last week, a diagonal pedestrian crossing is to be introduced outside Wood Green tube station in north London.

Since then I've been finding out more about the project, including emailing Haringey Council and going along to their mini-exhibition at Wood Green Library this evening.

Haringey Council added only one artists' impression of the scheme to their website today, but kindly sent me the two pictures below:

I also took this photo of the plan which was on display (wishing I hadn't left my decent camera at home, but if you click on the photo you'll see a larger view).

The council officer who I spoke to at the exhibition was friendly and helpful. He seemed surprised that the plan wasn't displayed on the website, and said he had sent it to the council's Press Office, along with both pictures. I asked him to make sure it is added to the existing information on the website.

Here are some more things I've discovered - and which the council could have added to their website with very little effort:

  • It was a deliberate decision to provide a diagonal crossing on just one axis, rather than a criss-cross arrangement (similar to Oxford Circus). This was because a full "X" would have had a negative impact on the traffic operation at the junction. The provision of the diagonal crossing only requires a slight adjustment to the existing signal timings and its impact on the junction will be negligible.

  • Traffic lights on all four approaches to the junction already turn red at the same time. (On my way to the exhibition I saw several pedestrians taking the diagonal route, although it is not marked and they had to negotiate railings.)

  • Traffic surveys at the junction found that there isn't a desire line on the other diagonal axis, between River Park House and the Vue cinema.

  • JMP is the transport consultancy who produced the modelling which was verified by Haringey Engineers and validated by Transport for London’s Directorate for Traffic Operations.

  • Work is due to start on 8 February 2010 and is estimated to take 16 weeks.

  • Currently, no other diagonal crossings are being planned for the Borough.

  • The new cycle stands will be of the Sheffield type, and will be installed outside Wood Green station.

  • Although the Department for Transport's guidelines for pedestrian facilities at signal-controlled junctions recommend that flush dropped kerbs, tactile paving, etc, should not be provided at diagonal crossings, these will be present in the Wood Green scheme. Usually this is discouraged because diagonal crossings are not generally considered appropriate for disabled users, particularly those who are visually impaired. However, in this case, only small sections of guard rail are to be removed, and pedestrians directed along a narrow corridor across the road, which is short and direct. This is judged to be as safe for users as the orthogonal crossings - that is the existing crossings on Station Road, Lordship Lane and High Road.

  • Haringey Council have asked for this site to be one of TfL's 8 pilot sites for the trial of the electronic Countdown system, which tells pedestrians how long they have left to cross in the "blackout period" between the green man disappearing and the red man appearing. They have yet to hear whether their application has been successful.

  • A 3m x 2m sign with information about the scheme will be installed outside the Vue cinema, and I have asked that the same information be replicated on the Council's website.

  • The council officer told me that only 5 or 6 people had visited the exhibition in the hour before I arrived. That's a small fraction of the number of people who have read about it via my original blog post. So much more could have been made of the council website, not just with maps, plans and photos, but for FAQs and feedback forms.

  • The official title of the scheme is "Wood Green Station access diagonal crossing" but I'm just calling it The Slash. (Well it's not an 'X', so it must be a '/')
  • Monday, 1 February 2010

    Gina Ford launches "The Contented Politician" - interesting emphasis.

    Gina Ford, author of several parenting books, has launched a political section on her website

    Prompted, perhaps, by Nick Clegg's recent critique of her childcare advice, Ford has come back with The Contented Politician.

    The page features photos of Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg with the strapline: "Which one of these men would you trust with your child's future?"

    The basic idea's a good one, but oddly-named. Why should politicians be the contented ones? The three men depicted are party leaders, not patriarchs who need to be placated.

    From the site:

    "With the general election approaching, members are becoming increasingly interested in politics. In response to this, we plan in the months leading up to the election to cover the main events in our weekly round up.

    We will look at our politicians' highs and lows, sharing with you their pledges and promises, and we'll cover many of the issues that concern families and children. We will also review each party's vision of the future, against the backdrop of current economic turmoil, so that you can consider whose policies might work and who you can put your trust in." [italics mine]

    Bring it on: let's compare the parties' attitudes to families (in all their forms). And while we're at it, let's consider which party will put its trust in people. Now why hasn't someone thought of that already..?