Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Talking balls

Very funny talk this evening at Round Table, from Darren Couchman – an Essex man who survived testicular cancer and wants to use humour to stop others suffering. 1 in 3 people will be affected by cancer of some kind; 1,800 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer in the UK each year.

Most men with testicular cancer can be cured. It's most likely to occur in young and middle-aged men. But most men don't like talking about it. The attention given to male-related cancers tends to be much less than for female-related cancers.

It seemed very appropriate to have Darren along to Round Table as most of those affected by testicular cancer are in the Round Table age bracket, 16-44.

Darren toured last summer, as he puts it "talking balls all across the country". He uses humour to get people over their embarrassment of talking about it, and he has written a book about his experience.

As he recovered from his operation, the catering lady asked if he wanted tea and whether he wanted "One lump or two". Hence the book title and website: One Lump Or Two – which reports on his tour, tells you more about the disease, what to do about it.

He was interviewed about his tour on the BBC.

Round Table will be looking at how they can help his publicity efforts coming up this June and July.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Policy consultation on women's issues

The Liberal Democrats are reviewing their party policy on women's issues and it is now open for comment. You might ask whether it is still necessary to produce policy specifically aimed at women. Jo Swinson MP, the Chair of the Working Group says:

"As Liberal Democrats, we are concerned at the injustices that women face in our society. The last major review of Liberal Democrat women’s policy was in 1995. So the women’s policy working group is welcome and not before time.

The group will, though, also bear in mind questions such as whether special treatment is still needed, and should men have tailored policies too. After all, often when there is inequality for women, men are part of the solution. Focusing solely on one gender won’t work.

The group’s remit cuts across all portfolios. In some areas we already have excellent policy for women, in others there are gaps we must address. Some of the issues we will look at include:
  • Money – pay, pensions, benefits
  • Sex – sexual orientation, abuse, maternity
  • Relationships – work/life balance, carers, family
  • Health & Beauty – body image, health
  • Power – representation, fear of crime, public role models
The questions range from the big picture - Can women really ‘have it all’? Can men? What is ‘it’ anyway and is it worth the effort? - to some specifics such as: How can we best enable mature women to get back into the labour market after a long break? and What alternatives to prison might be appropriate for female offenders?

The Liberal Democrats are committed to opening up the policy process. I am proud of the fact that only in the Liberal Democrats do we have these open policy discussions. There will be a consultation session at Harrogate conference 6-8 March and a final policy paper at autumn conference.

The final decisions on Lib Dem policy are made by conference not the leader. There is a website dedicated to receiving your comments on this (and other policies) here.

At the top of the page there, you can download a copy of the policy paper or get straight into commenting on each section.

If you have any specific comments that you would like to make to me, please email me.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Immigrants not taking our jobs - part 2

I blogged in the summer about how it was rubbish that immigrants were taking "our" jobs. There has been a big row again this last week involving foreign workers. This all suits the Labour government (and the Conservatives who invented most of the deregulation) - to divert attention from their central role in creating the problems we face.

It is worth remembering that our collective national income would fall dramatically if we were out of the EU and also that twice as many British people live and work in the EU than EU citizens work here. So any ban on "foreign workers" would hit us more - and we would have 500,000 Brits coming 'home' - possibly to be unemployed.

Update: see this article in the East Anglian Daily Times: Migrant workers 'going home'

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Making the EU more accountable

Graham Watson MEP wants to make the European Parliament more accountable to the public that elects it. Graham is leader of the 100-strong Liberal and Democrat group and is the first MEP ever to publicly state that he wants to be President of the European Parliament.

It's a job a little like Speaker of the House of Commons but more involved in managing the business of Parliament. The post is filled after each election (this year that is on 4th June) - usually for 2.5 years by a socialist MEP and 2.5 years by a Conservative. Graham is trying to break the cosy consensus and become the first Brit since Conservative Lord Plumb over 20 years ago, and the first ever British Liberal to be President.

Graham has already blazed a trail for openness with his weekly diary sent out by email and more recently his video blog. Now we can sign up to follow Graham on Twitter, which I've just done, or subscribe to his Page on Facebook.