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Last Tuesday the European Court of Appeal denied Britain's judicial right to deport Abu Qatada, the radical cleric described, as 'Bin Laden's right hand man in Europe'. Britain wanted to extradite him to Jordan, where he has been convicted of involvement in terrorist attacks. But he appealed a couple of years ago and now the ECA's ruling will make it almost impossible to hand him over to Jordan.
Labour's Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls was in town this weekend and came very, very close to endorsing Sion Simon's bid to become Birmingham's first directly-elected mayor.
Mr Simon, the former MP for Birmingham Erdington, is up against Gisela Stuart, sitting MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, and Sir Albert Bore, leader of the Labour group on the city council, for the party's nomination.
Handsworth Wood: this morning my area - my very neighbourhood - was shaken once again by the sound of violence. Last summer it was the riots in the city centre, the looting and mindless vandalism. And previously, I swear, I've lost count of how many times shooting and drug-related offences have been in the news.
The HS2 decision today has generated a huge amount of controversy with passionate arguments for and against the development over the last few months.
Such is the stuff of planning. It is about making difficult decisions which will impact on people and the environment, but crucially should benefit us as a society.
Inevitably, not all people will be happy with the decision reached.
However within our decision making processes there should be sufficient clarity and transparency so that people can understand the decision set within a managed process of dialogue, consultation and listening.
In particular there should be a clear linkage with other policy approaches that allows people to see the big picture even if they disagree with the final decision.
So let's examine this in more detail.
I deliver a module to built environment students at Birmingham City University entitled 'Policies and Plans' in which we look critically at what makes a good policy or plan.
Baldrick in Blackadder provided initial inspiration as he always seemed to have a cunning plan to get out of the crisis situations that invariably resulted.
However, a good plan is dependent on a clear vision, good intelligence, assessment of alternatives, involvement of affected parties and effective review processes.
Crucially, the process by which the plan is produced is every bit as important as the plan itself.
Here's a poem to mark this year's Christmas - albeit written more than a decade ago!
A gentle rain falls through the universe now
Not snowflakes on this Christmas Eve -
A trickle that shimmers like diamonds
Against our Nordic galaxy.
All around, the stars glimmer, these words,
Like omniscience that see all -
Eluding the hands of fate like beings
Of a different world.
Amidst the darkness of this space,
Wet-silence seeps into our thoughts
Like the flickering flame of a diva,
Or a hush of hymns in a church.
And this could be an insoluble instance,
Or an enigma for the essence of earth,
Projecting a collision of sparkling rain
With an image of that Child's birth.
A very merry Christmas to all our readers and a peaceful New Year.
Hark the Select Committee Angels Sing: Planning Reforms need significant rewriting
Christmas has come early for those of us who care about the planning system in England.
The Select Committee has published their report on the government proposed National Planning Policy Framework and in their 81 pages of critical analysis they confirm that the NPPF is not fit for purpose.
- The NPPF was short but vague leading to uncertainty and ambiguity
- The definition of sustainable development presented was inadequate as it was based on economic development
- The default answer to development being yes was misplaced.
- The golden thread of sustainable development was not suitable for decision making as it was too vague
- The lack of a town centre first and brown field first policies were leading to increased pressures on greenfield sites
- The attacks on planners as the enemies of enterprise were found to be baseless with no evidence to support allegations that planning inhibited growth or development.
The recommendations focus attention on the local plan as the decision making tool for sustainable development with the ability to tweak and adapt this to the local situation where there is clear evidence to do so.
Staffordshire MP Aidan Burley (Con Cannock Chase), who attended a Nazi-themed stag do in France, has issued a fulsome apology on his personal website.
He said: "I am deeply sorry, and want to take this opportunity to offer the people of Cannock Chase an unreserved, wholehearted and full apology for the terrible offence this incident has undoubtedly caused . . . I feel ashamed that Cannock Chase has been placed in the limelight as a result of my behaviour."
He also added: "Being involved in a fancy dress party does not mean you endorse, tacitly or explicitly, the actions and philosophy of the person that is being impersonated. In fact, quite the opposite is true. I have no sympathies whatsoever with Nazism, racism, or fascism."
The Children's Society has published the results of a survey which found most 13 to 17 year olds and adults believed the main reason for the summer riots was that rioters wanted "to get goods and possessions they couldn't afford to buy".
According to the Children's Society, this proves that Theresa May, the Home Secretary, was wrong to claim that the riots were about "instant gratification".
Instead, according to the Children's Society, it proves that "poverty" was one of the key causes of the riots.
American politicians constantly go around stating how religious they are, ending their speeches with 'God bless America'.
For them religion is a badge of honour.
David Cameron was in Oldbury, in the Black Country, launching a new project "to radically transform the lives of the country's most troubled families" today.
Almost £450 million will be spent trying to help 120,000 "troubled families" through measures such as the creation of "a national network of Troubled Family 'Trouble-Shooters' who will be appointed by local councils", according to a statement issued by the government.
Officials working for Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, have contacted me to correct a story which appeared in today's Birmingham Post and on our website about the Government offering more powers to cities if they choose to have a mayor.
I believe our story accurately reflects what we were told by a Government Minister yesterday - and Government policy as set out in a new document published today.
I am amazed at the double standards we have to put up with in regard to public broadcasting in this country.
You might remember when Hardeep Kholi - the Glaswegian comedian - made a relatively stale, though sexist, comment to a researcher (or was it a make-up assistant?). The BBC suspended him almost immediately from the shows where he was a regular contributor. And it was even worse for Raj Persaud who used to present a psychology programme on Radio 4 until that is, it was said that he had plagiarized his paper. And before you could say 'cheat', the man was presented with his UB40 card and packed off to the nearest job centre.
Did you know the Conservative Party has been infiltrated by Guardian-reading liberals?
It has, according to Shropshire MP Daniel Kawczynski (Con Shrewsbury and Atcham), who said he was dismayed to discover that so many of his colleagues were members of the liberal elite when he tried to discuss Saudi Arabia with them.
As a teacher I would like to say that I refuse to take part in the forthcoming industrial action on the grounds that I am patriotic and love my country.
Firstly I am right-wing and a committed reactionary. I believe that employers are the Victorian patriarchal figures - pillars of our community - who have our best interest at heart. To go against them - to disrupt the production and the business of education - is tantamount to sacrilege because it is a betrayal of our trust and a breach of our contractual duties with our place of work.
An MP is demanding to know why taxpayers have forked out hundreds of thousands of pounds to former Prime Ministers via a little-known grant.
Tony Blair has received £272,888 since quitting as Prime Minister, while Gordon Brown has received £83,718.
Lady Thatcher received £529,100 over the past five years, while John Major received £490,921.
In Mr Brown's case, the cash comes on top of the £29,963.91 he has claimed in MP's expenses since quitting Downing Street last May.
Every now and then (if you're lucky) a piece of literature - be it a novel or a poem - will come along and shake your heart; it'll rock your world. And, I swear, your perspective of yourself and the space around you, will never be the same again.
Today, of course, is Remembrance Sunday - a day on which our nation commemorates all those soldiers who have given their lives for our country. Quite rightly, perhaps, many people take part in services being held in churches up and down our country - and in other parts of our towns and cities including community halls, town centres and temples.
Essentially I have absolutely no problem with people wanting to mark this occasion with whatever appropriate means they want to employ. I think it is fitting that some form of event is organised on a national scale to remember the immensity of sacrifice made by thousands and indeed millions of young soldiers - many as young as the students I teach.
So I'm all for it. I really am.
You would think that a 17th century Catholic who attempted to blow up Parliament - the ultimate symbol of democracy in this country - would be hard pushed to gain even an iota of sympathy from anyone. Certainly not then and, perhaps, not even now.
And yet today, sympathy is exactly what I feel towards Guy Fawkes, a man who was executed publicly in the most savage and brutal manner - though he did purposefully break his neck in order to by-pass a prolonged, agonising death.
'It's just not cricket' is an adage used by many to denote unsavory, behaviour in our society. And this is particularly true in the light of Pakistan's cricket team's skipper, Salman Butt. Today he was jailed for 30 months for his role in deliberately creating no-balls against England in the Test match last year. So perhaps, understandably, people might think twice about correlating gentlemanly conduct with this whiter-than-white sport.
However, my question concerns the sentence itself.
Granted that Butt and the other two players, Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Amir, were found guilty of illegal tampering by Southwark Crown Court.
But were their offences so serious that only a prison sentence could be justified?
Young people have been invited to enter a prestigious writing competition backed by the Birmingham Post & Mail, giving them a chance to visit Parliament and meet top politicians and journalists.
The contest is organised by the Parliamentary Press Gallery, which includes journalists from leading regional and national newspapers as well as broadcasters and political bloggers.
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.