October 2011 Archives
Fantastic news - MP John Hemming has reported that Beauty the cat has been found alive and well, and appears to have been living happily in Sparkhill for the past year.
As you may know, Beauty was stolen by Mr Hemming's wife, Christine Hemming, from the home of his long-term girlfriend Emily Cox.
Mrs Hemming, who received a nine-month suspended prison sentence for the theft, has insisted that she did attempt to return the cat by pushing it under a fence near Ms Cox's home. However, Beauty never did make her way home, and her fate has been a mystery since the theft last September.
Black Country MP Tom Watson (Lab West Bromwich East) told News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch that his company faced a new scandal as devastating as the phone hacking scandal, when he travelled to Los Angeles to confront the media mogul in person.
He took part in News Corporation's annual general meeting in the US, after being appointed as a proxy by the US trade union organisation AFL-CIO, which owns a small amount of News Corp shares.
Mr Watson, who led the campaign to expose phone hacking by journalists on the News of the World, the former Sunday tabloid owned by News Corp's subsidiary News International, said police were investigating allegations that private investigators employed by the newspaper group hacked computers.
Referring to Glen Mulcaire, the investigator who was convicted of illegally intercepting phone messages in 2007, he said News Corp faced a "Mulcaire 2".
The MP also accused News Corp of employing investigators to impersonate a former Prime Minister (presumably Gordon Brown) and Illegally obtain information from former army intelligence officers.
From this week's Birmingham Post. Protests against corporate greed and inequality have spread from Wall Street to Britain and across the globe. I asked demonstrators in London's financial district what they hoped to achieve.
Johnny spent last night sleeping under a pile of cardboard. He doesn't have a tent, but he doesn't regret making the journey from Staffordshire to soak up the "festival atmosphere" and protest against the billions poured into failing banks.
Aaron's also making do without a tent - after somebody stole his belongings on the train from Coventry to London. Luckily, he's already made friends among the protesters camped outside St Paul's Cathedral in the heart of London, and they've offered to let him share theirs.
Both young men are among the hundreds taking part in protests in London's financial district, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street events in the United States.
There was a time when the Conservatives were seen as the party that supported the police - and enjoyed the backing of officers in return.
But somehow, David Cameron has managed to turn rank and file cops against the Tories.
Evidence for this is contained in a hard-hitting and moving report which tells the story of ordinary police officers as they struggled to cope during August's riots.
Published by West Midlands Police Federation, it was originally distributed to the Home Affairs Select Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the riots, and is now being sent to every MP.
Here is the full text of Liam Fox's resignation letter to Prime Minister David Cameron:
As you know, I have always placed a great deal of importance on accountability and responsibility.
As I said in the House of Commons on Monday, I mistakenly allowed the distinction between my personal interest and my Government activities to become blurred. The consequences of this have become clearer in recent days. I am very sorry for this.
Labour's new Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg is making waves - after overseeing a major reversal in Labour policy just a week into the job.
Mr Twigg has said Labour now supports free schools, such as the three in Birmingham and the Black Country, as long as they are raising standards for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
As recently as September 25, Labour leader Ed Miliband was firmly opposed to the free schools policy.
MPs don't always know what questions have been asked in their names - because researchers submit the query without telling them, it has emerged.
Asking questions of Government departments is one of the key tasks of any backbench MP, whether they are in a governing party or in opposition.
While many questions are posed orally in the Commons - including the high profile Questions to the Prime Minister on Wednesday - MPs also submit written questions on a regular basis. The benefit of doing it this way is that they are guaranteed to get an answer, rather than standing up in the Chamber and hoping the Speaker calls them.
This was the moment David Cameron came face to face with the West Midlands MEP threatening to cause him a major headache.
Nikki Sinclaire collared the Prime Minister during the Conservative conference in Manchester - and asked him when his government would back a referendum on leaving the European union.
There are 234,000 unemployed people in the West Midlands, giving an unemployment rate of 8.9 per cent, according to new official figures.
This is an increase of 8,000 people over the past three months.
But it's not an historic high for the region. This time two years ago, unemployment stood at 280,000.
Birmingham has one of the highest unemployment rates of any local authority, with 60,000 people unemployed. This is an unemployment rate of 12.9 per cent - it means roughly one in eight people in the workforce are unemployed.
Eric Pickles has done Birmingham City Council one favour. Never again will the authority be criticised for failing to ask staff and council house tenants whether they are gay.
Mr Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, confirmed at the Conservative conference that he planned to scrap rules which forced councils to carry out surveys into people's private lives.
Birmingham was a victim of these rules recently, when the Audit Commission criticised it for failing to ask staff in its housing department - and residents in council housing - what their sexuality was.
MPs will attempt to ban colleagues from using Twitter in the Chamber, in what may be a bad-tempered debate this Thursday.
Many MPs now regularly whip out their phones during debates and send a tweet or two about the discussion taking place.
But Tories James Gray (Con North Wiltshire) and Roger Gale (Con Thanet North) want to put a stop to that.
They have submitted an amendment to be discussed on Thursday October 13 - Speaker allowing - which will effectively outlaw Twitter in both the Chamber and during select committee meetings.
At long last, serious attempts are being made to cut fraud at the ballot box.
It's a pity that Labour can't bring itself to support these long-awaited changes - even though it was cheating by Labour candidates which demonstrated that they were needed.
You might think that Britain doesn't have a problem with electoral fraud. Sadly, that's not true, as we discovered in 2005 when an electoral court ruled there had been widespread fraud in Birmingham, Britain's largest local authority.
Postmen were intimidated into handing over sacks full of postal votes. Ballot papers were changed once votes had been cast, unbeknownst to voters, using correction fluid. And police discovered six men in a warehouse with 274 unsealed postal votes.
Campaigning West Midland MP Tom Watson has been rewarded with a job in Labour leader Ed Miliband's top team following his battle to expose phone hacking by some newspapers.
Mr Watson (Lab West Bromwich East) joins the Shadow Cabinet as Labour's campaign co-ordinator and deputy party chair.
The high-profile MP has been widely praised after helping to reveal that journalists on the News of the World tabloid hacked the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
His role now will be to shake up Labour's campaigns across the country, and to improve the way it uses the Internet to communicate with voters.
Mr Watson has experience of fighting and winning elections for Labour, after overseeing a series of by-elections, including the Birmingham Hodge Hill by-election campaign which saw Liam Byrne elected for Labour in 2004.
I don't think I believe the official explanation for David Cameron's last-minute change to his conference speech.
There are two competing explanations for what went wrong.
According to one version of events, he originally planned to exhort the British people to pay off their credit card and store card debts.
This section of the speech was briefed to the media on Tuesday night, to appear in Wednesday's papers, a few hours before Mr Cameron was due to take to the stage in Manchester.