Friday, 30 May 2008

A very brave lady

"We can all turn a blind eye to situations in our lives and that's what's wrong with everybody now. We are teaching our children that it's OK to do this and it's wrong."

Those are the words of a mother who reported her own sons to the police after she discovered they had brutally attacked a man leaving him blind in one eye. As a consequence she has lost contact with most of her family, and of course her two sons are now in prison. It is a very sad and emotional story but I think she is a very brave woman and should be highly commended for her actions. The full story can be read HERE.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Local Business Survey

I recently conducted a survey of local businesses, ranging from small to medium-sized operations, and have been looking through the returns today. Not a single respondent thought the Government made it easy for them to invest and grow their business, which is awful. How can we expect UK plc to grow if our businesses feel it is too difficult or too risky for them to invest and expand?

I asked what regulations were the biggest burden to their business and the replies were really interesting: 17% said maternity/paternity leave; 8% said pensions; 21% said money laundering; but 43% said health & safety regulations with many adding additional comments on the same theme.

I also asked what one change would help their business most and unsurprisingly the replies ranged from a cut in corporate tax for small businesses and the reduction of fuel duty through to less red tape. Businesses, especially small ones, are often forgotten by media commentators when reporting on the "credit crunch" and the impact it is having domestically. But it is quite clear from the surveys that business is already finding it tough, and that they are tightening their belts - which sadly often means job losses - in order to prepare for some difficult times ahead. However there was one respondent who didn't ask for a change in tax or red tape. He simply said that the one change that would help his business most was for "Labour being voted out". Quite.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

University Challenge

I managed to spend some of this afternoon watching the Championship Play-Off Final between Hull and Bristol. I went to Hull University and went to watch Hull FC at the old Boothferry Road stadium. My partner went to Bristol University and so the challenge was set. Neither of us passionately support Hull or Bristol but even so one of us is happier than the other this evening!! :-)

Friday, 23 May 2008

Crewe & Nantwich

What an amazing result in Crewe & Nantwich for the Conservative Party! A near 18% swing in a by-election is extraordinary, although as David Cameron himself says: winning a by-election and winning a general election are two different things. I doubt very much we'll have a General Election now until 2010, which I know from my conversations with local people that this will be a horrifying prospect for many who are crying out for change.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Wet Wouldham

Hurrah for the girl guides of Wouldham. Despite the pouring rain and cold wind, I drove into the car park at Wouldham Rec to be greeted by over 20 children, many of whom were from Wouldham Girl Guides, dressed in High Visibility jackets and armed with litter pickers and it cheered me up immensely. Off we went in our wellies, pac-a-mac's, bin bags, pickers and heavy duty gloves and given the army of helpers I reckon as a team we covered most of the village. I headed off with Cllr Roger Dalton and two Guides - Nicola and Rebecca - and tramped our way up and down school lane picking up discarded rubbish from people too lazy and too selfish to both taking it home with them. By the end of the session we all regrouped back at the Rec and were quite horrified to see how much we'd picked up! Everyone got totally soaked but for the Guides it was hopefully worth it because it goes towards their Challenge Badge. I hope the village residents see the difference next time they go out but in the meantime I am on my fourth cup of tea trying to warm up brrrrr.

ps - There were photos taken but I look a right wally in my purple hooded pac-a-mac so I am not posting them!! But if any parents want a copy please email me at tracey@traceycrouch.co.uk

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Sun, Sausages and Surveys

I have survived the first really hot and sunny Saturday of the year without getting horribly sun burnt - always a cause for celebration when you are as fair skinned as me! I spent the morning out in Walderslade, before popping up to the office to scoop up a mountain of post, before heading back to meet the troops for a late lunch of sausages and chips.

Our surveys are coming back thick and fast and for the first time I am beginning to see the "cost of living" listed as a key concern. Sadly I expect to see it a lot more in the near future.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Joining Jamesy & KGB on Hospital Radio Medway

Today I recorded a two hour interview with DJs Jamesy & KGB (aka Ian and Bill) for Hospital Radio Medway and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

It was all a bit daunting to start off with because I was asked to send my top 10 records in advance but they couldn't be depressing or have any reference to death or dying in them - for obvious reasons. So when we started the interview I was very conscious that the listeners were most likely to be extremely unwell and that they were looking to be distracted and entertained - no pressure then! But when the two DJs are sitting in football tops, taking the mickey out of each other, it was hard not to relax and enjoy the experience.

The two hours flew by and we covered a whole range of topics from local politics, the state of the Conservative Party, Boris the Mayor through to crime (Ian is a police officer when he is not volunteering at the hospital), community action programmes and mixed sex wards. KGB (or Bill) is brilliant - he is a real "man of the people" with strong views on a number of issues. On a number of occasions I could hear myself chuckling into the mic as he and Ian exchanged witty remarks - although I was most upset when they both disagreed with me that blue cheese "is the best cheese" (their signature question).

It was actually harder than I thought to pick my top 10 records. My taste is so eclectic that the top 10 change on a daily basis! Anyway, here are the top 10 non-depressing tunes chosen for Hospital Radio Medway - if only I knew how to upload them onto a e-mixed tape for you all to listen to!!

1) Paint it Black, Rolling Stones
2) Town called Malice, The Jam
3) This is the One, The Stone Roses
4) History, Thirteen Senses
5) We've Got Tonight, Bob Seger
6) Islands in the Stream, Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers
7) Wish you were here, Pink Floyd
8) Chasing Cars, Snow Patrol
9) Romeo & Juliet, Dire Straits
10) The Man Who Sold the World, Nirvana

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Cannabis U-Turn

Since this is the year for Labour U-Turns, it was only a matter of time before the Government realised it had got it fundamentally wrong on the reclassification of cannabis and re-grade it a class B drug. And rightly so. It should never have been downgraded in the first place.

The Home Secretary was right to point out that, given the increasing strength of modern day cannabis varieties, there is huge uncertainty over the impact on users' mental health. Shadow Home Secretary David Davis highlighted the dangers of the downgrading of cannabis to a Class C drug four years ago in a speech to Spring Forum. He said:

One thing can wreck opportunities, destroy freedom, and shatter lives: drugs. And the first thing I will do as Home Secretary is reverse this Government's foolish reclassification policy on cannabis. Let me tell you why. The Times recently told the story of a young cannabis user called Steve. His father Terry recalls how Steve turned to him one evening while watching television and said: "Why did you ring the BBC?" Terry said he hadn't. "Yes you did" Steve said. "You rang them and told them I was lazy and they've been broadcasting it all day". Steve had become paranoid and started to hear voices. Three years later, and after 3 months in a psychiatric ward, Steve lives at home with his parents. His paranoia is controlled by medication but he still hears voices, is unable to work and remains afraid to go out alone. But compared with some, Steve is lucky.

The paper featured another article. A moving account from the mother of an art student. After a harrowing account of his addiction, she wrote: "I knew how my bright, clever, acerbic, handsome son had been destroyed, his creative brain damaged, his strong physique crippled. What made this boy, my lively, lovely, articulate son with his many gifts of perception, art, facility with languages, writing skills, critical capacity, acting ability, physical beauty, elegance of mind and body, sell his life to drugs? George, her son, progressively declined into psychosis caused by cannabis. He died in a drug dealer's flat of heroin poisoning, the drug he took to escape the terrors of his psychotic episodes. This weekend is the fourth anniversary of his death.

You can't listen to those two stories and believe cannabis is harmless. After four studies proved the link between cannabis and psychosis, the papers were full of such stories. Including from those who had once been protagonists for cannabis legalisation. That was until their own children had suffered from the ill effects of marijuana. The past 20 years have seen super potent varieties of cannabis emerge, 10 times as powerful, and 10 times as dangerous. Making the problems worse.

Those who use cannabis by the age of 15 are over three times as likely to develop psychosis. In South London, the incidence of psychosis has doubled since 1964. Some commentators say it is not the job of government to stop people ruining their lives. Well I believe it is when youngsters start smoking marijuana at the age of 10 or less.

Today this Government's policy on drugs is sending mixed messages to our children. Reclassification of cannabis has persuaded many that cannabis is safe and legal. Wrong. It is neither. We have opposed this lunacy. And we will reverse it.

The Government has a responsibility to stop children and young people starting on the path of self-destruction. And it has a responsibility to stop those hell bent on self-destruction from ruining other people's lives.

Four years later, and for some four years too late, the Government has finally recognised that it made a huge mistake. If only it had listened earlier. For some it may just be too late.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Snodland Festival 2008



The Snodland Festival is back and 2008 promises to be absolutely fantastic.

This year it will be over the weekend of 19th & 20th July with two excellent pop tribute acts - Queen and Abba (Iain Dale are you reading this?) on Saturday; and then an amazing classical concert on the Sunday involving choirs from the primary schools in Snodland singing alongside the City of Rochester Symphony Orchestra.

Further information can be found at the festival website HERE.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Mixed Sex Wards

The Health Secretary Alan Johnson has said that he will abolish mixed sex hospital wards within a year. Hurrah. But will it actually happen? Well not if their past record is anything to go by.

In Labour's 1997 and 2001 manifestos they promised to eliminate mixed sex wards but 11 years on they are having to repeat their promise because they have failed to make true on the commitment. So why should we believe that this is anything more than just a cynical attempt to relaunch the Labour Party as it descends further down the opinion polls?

I think mixed sex wards are an abomination in what should be a dignified environment of care for the ill - especially, although not exclusively, for elderly patients. I genuinely hope that this is more than another promise to be broken by this failing Labour Government.