|it's that time of year again...|
|Tuesday, 04 October 2005 10:03|
I have been attending Labour Party
Conferences since 1994, and this year's Conference was as exciting as
previous ones. It was really good to catch up with friends and colleagues, some
of whom I had not seen since last year’s Party Conference. Some of you will have
seen on TV the great speeches by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, and the Prime
Minister, Tony Blair. Although the media report on the events inside the
Conference Hall, the fringe meetings and other events that take place in and
around the Conference centre play just as important role in informing debate
about policy. The overriding theme of Conference this year was renewal in power,
and looking forward to consolidating and building on all that we have achieved
as a party so far. There were also some important policy announcements – most
noticeably, the banning of junk food in schools. This is very welcome, and you
can read more about my views on this here.
One of the highlights of the week for me was getting the chance to slide tackle and foul journalists in the annual MPs v press football match! As opposed to my side who all played very fairly, the press team were extremely aggressive, nasty and a bunch of dirty cheats!!! The 2-2 result was probably fair, although we played a more beautiful football and did not need to resort to devious ploys.
I spoke at a Fringe meeting organised by the Fabian Society on Britishness, Diversity and Integration. Other panellists were Tessa Jowell MP and Martin Kettle of the Guardian.
The week before Conference was another busy one in Tooting. I had a long conversation with the Chief Executive of St George’s Hospital about the Hospital’s recent announcement of job losses. I am extremely concerned by this and the fact that some of the losses will be compulsory redundancies. Many back office and clerical roles will go and this is extremely distressing for all involved.
I met with the co-ordinators of the Safer Neighbourhood Teams in Wandsworth at Tooting Police Station. I meet with the Police regularly and this was a good opportunity to get from the Police their views on how well neighbourhood policing is working. At the moment, two of our seven wards have a full complement of 6 new officers. The five other wards have teams of officers, but not yet at full strength. I am lobbying the Mayor of London and Hazel Blears MP (Minister of State at the Home Office with responsibility for Policing, Security and Community Safety) to try and get a full complement of new officers across the constituency. A photo from the meeting is here.
I also had a meeting with the Home Secretary and Ministers from the FCO, DfES and Home Office, as well as various community leaders to receive reports from the seven working groups that had been set up by the Home Office to look into working together to prevent extremism.
I had the pleasure of attending the opening of the White Pigeon charity shop at 175 Tooting High Street. White Pigeon is a charity that was originally set up to help the victims of landmines in Sri Lanka. I learnt that there are over 20,000 landmine victims and over 2 million buried landmines in North and east Sri Lanka. It has been estimated that to clear all the mines at the rate of operation in place now could take at least 15 years. Since the Tsunami disaster on Boxing Day last year, White Pigeon have diverted some of their charity work towards helping the victims of the Tsunami rebuild their lives and communities. I am really proud that we have a charity like White Pigeon working from the heart of Tooting. You can find out more about the work of White Pigeon on their website.
I also took part in the Tooting Mela celebrations. This is an annual event organised by the Council and the Tooting Mela Committee, and involves a weekend of entertainment celebrating Asian culture. Many artists and dancers took part, and 500 local people were treated to an amazing display.
I attended the annual public meeting of the South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust on 29th September. This was held at Springfield University Hospital. It was really pleasing to see around 150 people attending an AGM, which shows that our local community takes an interest in our local mental health trust. The Chief Executive, Nigel Fisher, was very honest in his analysis of the last 12 months where the Trust have faced some dreadful, highly publicised incidents; faced up to increased financial pressures; implemented new national contracts for all staff and completed the biggest change to clinical operations management structure for the last 10 years. The good news is that there have been new ward developments at Queen Mary’s Hospital and the Phoenix Unit at Springfield. After decades of treating mental health like the Cinderella of the NHS, inpatient wards are now being brought into the 21st century. More figures and statistics are available on the Trust's website.
One of my ambitions (since the age of 12) is to enter the Guinness Book of Records. I have finally, I think, succeeded in fulfilling this ambition, courtesy of taking part in the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning organised by Macmillan Cancer Relief. I joined the Macmillan team at St George’s Hospital on Friday 30th September. St George’s now have 24 Macmillan post holders in a variety of clinical areas including nurses, but also allied health professionals. The coffee morning was not only an opportunity for me to enter the Guinness Book of Records, but also a chance to fund raise for Macmillan Cancer Relief and to highlight fantastic services Macmillan provide to the public and hospital staff.
October is Black History Month This is an annual occurrence to promote knowledge of Black History and experience, disseminate information on positive Black contributions to British Society and heighten the confidence and awareness of Black people in their cultural heritage. Yesterday, I attended an event at the African Caribbean Community Library on Lavender Hill. “An Interview with Mary Seacole” is a short play written by local writer and Tooting resident Jason Young. Mary Seacole is not as famous as Florence Nightingale but played a similarly heroic role as a nurse. The play described Mary Seacole’s courage, bravery and devotion to soldiers during the Crimean War.
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