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The Blues

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Which have nothing to do with music or Chelsea!

Apologies for the recent lack of posts in here, I’m going through another of those inexplicable periods that stifles creativity, optimism, the will to write, and a slight depression. Much of it has been brought about by seeing rioters locked away without any real efforts to have them clean up their communities (I knew things were heading in the wrong direction) too many doctors were producing a diagnosis and then prescribing entirely the wrong medicine, the illness will not be cured. Heard a really interesting interview on BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday evening with a former policeman in Glasgow who is now involved in a project to reduce violent crime and gangland culture which has had startling results over the past year, shame it isn’t available as a podcast for you to hear. The crux of his solutions was to offer a stark choice between punishment and reform coupled with multi-partnership early intervention schemes starting with parenting classes and advice centres which put great emphasis on the first three years of life helping (mainly) single parents to introduce empathy, consideration, a realisation of the consequences of poor behaviour, and its effects upon others around you. The scheme also involves parents and teachers working together to reintroduce discipline at school and in the home for children between four and fourteen with rewards for good behaviour and reductions in privileges for poor behaviour. Those who do make the choice to join gangs and enter into a life of criminality in their teens are warned of the “zero tolerance” attitude that their local police will take going right down to the point of possible eviction from social housing, chasing down their mothers if they don’t have a TV Licence, chasing down the family if their car is not taxed, chasing down those who are in arrears with council tax, in other words the police promise to be “in their faces” all day long. Local courts are encouraged to hand down more community sentences which see offenders making real reparations for the damage that they may have caused, they get to meet victims of crime and experience the horrors and fears that many carry with them for life.  On the other hand, if they choose not to display criminal behaviour they will be offered places in schemes which channel their energies in better ways such as football teams, youth groups, apprenticeships, art classes, special interest groups that teach music, video editing, video game programming, all the things that modern teenagers would probably love to do.

Unfortunately such schemes can be costly to run, but economically make good long term sense, particularly if re-offending rates begin to collapse, and they have in Glasgow, no wonder that the Strathclyde Chief Constable is one of the favourites to take over at the Met.

Then to cap off a bad week, the politicians in their wisdom decided that everything was more or less solved so they took off on holiday again!

If that wasn’t bad enough to give you the blues, I don’t what is.

As a typical South Shields football supporting lad I was looking forward to yesterday’s derby match between Sunderland and Newcastle, but now working every Saturday prevents me from going to the Stadium of Light to watch Sunderland, (my visits will have to be restricted to Sunday and mid week games now), but two sessions in front of the box watching Match of the Day have simply added to my depression, two games against Liverpool and The Mags should have netted six points if only our strikers could hit the bloody target! I fear a week of solid ribbing from the black and white half of this town. At least yesterday’s game appears to have been trouble free with only 21 arrests at the ground, which is pretty good from a capacity crowd!

So……….hoping that a bit of cricket this weekend will cheer us all up as England try their hardest to secure a test series whitewash of India, two days left to bowl them out twice for a humiliating innings defeat, at least we can say we’re champions at something! For those poor folk who cannot, or would not, dream of paying for a Sky subscription there’s  always Test Match Special on BBC Radio, probably the best tonic for the blues and depressions, even without the venerable “Johnners” there are enough characters to give you a laugh, I leave you (for now) with this little classic!


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Written by curly

August 21, 2011 at 11:32 am

Hacked off by “The Torygraph”?

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Gilligan guns for Sovereign Strategy

Andrew Gilligan, the former BBC journalist who was at the genesis of the Blair/Campbell “sexed up document” story, had a right good go at Sovereign Strategy the lobbying company headed by former South Tyneside councillor and MEP Alan Donnelly and current council leader Iain Malcolm in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph. In a curious article he exposed many of Sovereign Strategy’s tactics in raising cash and then passing on amounts of it to the Labour Party nationally and locally, the main two points of his piece are that (a) the lobbyist is working with the Hacked Off campaign to keep the phone hacking story in the news, and (b) that News International don’t like the firm and he repeats a whole string of allegations made by The Times and The Sunday Times over recent years.

I am just curious as to what Gillligan was hoping to prove or achieve:  so long as we have the type of democracy which involves close links between the press and politicians we will always have professional lobbying firms, and pressure groups working around the fringes or deep within the heart of politics beavering away at ensuring certain issues of interest are prominent in the minds of politicians. Presently, we expect and hope that the relationships between journalists of News International and leading politicians, from all parties, are kept under the closest possible scrutiny until Parliament and the courts have all reached the end of their deliberations. I assume that Gilligan also wants to see full transparency amongst those trading blows during this process, but there will be many other groups and companies similarly involved in gaining privileged access to government ministers who will fall below the radar, and some of these will undoubtedly be supporters and financiers of the Conservative Party.

I just wonder what the effect of articles such as this will be on the revenues of lobbying companies now being bleached by the sunlight, as businesses in the north-east discover that £5000 fees paid to the North-East Economic Forum, which is a very useful body for gathering opinion and strategic regeneration ideas,  is drip fed to the Labour Party to the tune of £160000 over the past nine years, with an additional £41000 personally coming from Alan Donnelly?

It would be interesting to hear either Alan Donnelly’s or Iain Malcolm’s opinion on Gilligan’s surgical excisions into their business. Are they well and truly Hacked Off?

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Written by curly

July 25, 2011 at 11:48 am

Interesting media encounter

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Any insomniacs stay up to listen to BBC Radio?

I got a bit of a surprise as a journalistic follower collared me for an interview with BBC Newcastle last night, they are regular followers of this blog so I was told, so presumably they wanted to add a bit of colour and interest to their election show to lighten the heavy political mood. South Shields and South Tyneside had never really had it so good for media coverage as David Miliband and I espoused the virtues of our political backgrounds and the benefits of the borough at different stages.

See, told you I had a “radio face” (now if half of you councillors had a sense of humour and a radio face………).

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Written by curly

May 6, 2011 at 11:34 am

If Labour had won under Gordon Brown……..

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…….their “cuts” would begin to bite in two days time.

It is so easy to forget that during the campaign for the last general election you could hardly pass a cigarette paper between the economic and fiscal policies of the two main parties, the Conservatives were promising around £16bn worth of savings to reduce the structural deficit built by Gordon Brown’s regime, and Labour were proposing £14bn worth of cuts in their next planned budget which would have been effective from April 1st. next year. That £2bn difference is minuscule when viewed against the £1 trillion (and growing) debt that they left us.

Yet now that Gordon Brown has been consigned to the history books and Alistair Darling forgotten about, can the Labour Party in Opposition be responsible enough to stand by their manifesto pledges and talk freely about the areas which would have suffered had they swung their axe?

It appears not, in recent days both Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor and Harriet Harman, the Deputy Leader have both evaded questions about Labour’s cuts whilst the party’s leader embarks upon a campaign of supporting street demonstrations and direct action, Balls in his interview with The Daily Mail on Monday made the slightly ridiculous argument that the economy had started to show signs of strong growth at the end of Labour’s stint (0.2% if I recall correctly) and that coalition policies had stunted that growth re-stoked inflation and set unemployment on an upward path. The ridiculous part of the argument is that  the fiscal measures announced in Gorge Osborne’s first budget will not come into effect until April 1st. this year, and Balls knows it full well, it is the same date that Labour’s budget would have been effective from if they had won the election. In his interview Balls gave no clues at all on where Labour would have wielded the axe as they set about “halving the deficit in four years”. Yet he and his leader were prepared to share a platform in London decrying the government for doing what Labour would necessarily have had to do.

Harriet Harman repeated the same lame argument on the BBC’s Daily Politics Show yesterday, and once more utterly failed to convince in her answers to the questions about where Labour’s cuts would hurt.

Interviewer: You talk about the cuts being wrong but you do not talk about the alternative. You also do not mention that you would also be making cuts.”

HARRIET HARMAN: “We do. We say that we would halve the deficit over four years. Now what happened is  the economy was hit by a global financial crisis. We had to allow the deficit to rise to protect the economy.”

Interviewer: “I know it’s tempting to get into the history lesson.”

HARRIET HARMAN: “I’m just trying to explain what we would actually do instead. There is an alternative and that’s what we’re setting forward.”

Interviewer: “So when it comes to cuts where would you cut and what would you cut?”

HARRIET HARMAN: “Well we think that Government is making matters worse because they’re slowing down economic growth.”

Interviewer: “You’re not answering the question and that is the problem.”

HARRIET HARMAN: “Well I am. Because basically the cuts are making. What the Government is doing is making the situation worse. They are making unemployment rise. We are seeing growth falter and that makes it harder to cut the deficit. So my point is they are making the deficit worse.”

Interviewer: “Don’t you see the problem though with this approach because you at the last election said that you would have to make cuts. Now it is impossible…”

HARRIET HARMAN: “Halving the deficit over four years.”

Interviewer: “To get you to say where you would cut. I’ve had Ed Miliband, Ed Balls sitting in the same seat. He wouldn’t say it.”

HARRIET HARMAN: “No well we’ve said over four years. We would.”

Interviewer: “Where? Where?”

HARRIET HARMAN: “We’ve said that we would consolidate backroom functions. That we would hold back on, erm, investment in capital that we’ve been doing so much over the last thirteen years of. So we’ve said it would.”

Interviewer: “Some of the people on that march. Some of those people listening to Ed Miliband would have lost their jobs under a Labour Government. Yes or no?”

HARRIET HARMAN: “Well I think that basically we would see, er yes fewer people employed  in the public sector. We wouldn’t see the increase in public sector employment that we’d presided over. But I think to assert.”

Interviewer: “But that’s interesting so absolutely categorically some of those people who were there cheering for Ed Miliband would have lost their jobs because you would have cut their jobs had you been in Government?”

HARRIET HARMAN: “I think people were actually saying that the cuts are too far and too fast and the idea that the private sector.”

Interviewer: “The answer to that question is yes isn’t it. They answer is yes. Some of the people there would have lost their jobs because you’d have had to have made cuts in Government.”

These are very weak arguments to be barking at people looking to support the Labour Party in opposition especially when viewed against the published spending plans that Balls, Miliband, and Harman had put their metaphoric signatures to when in government only twelve months ago.

Official Treasury figures from the Budget show that Labour would cut just £2 billion less than the Government in 2011-12:

‘Under the plans that this Government inherited, £14 billion of spending cuts were planned in 2011-12, compared with 2010-11. This Government’s spending cuts amount to £16 billion over the same period’ (HM Treasury, Budget 2011, p. 10)

And so we are left with the rather distasteful images of a Labour leadership lacking in honour and candour as they continue to hide the truth about their own planned cuts, whilst standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands who were deceived into believing that things would have been so much different, the anarchists and the perpetrators of violence may well NOT be part of the trades union movement but we can almost guarantee that at every rally and protest planned over the next couple of years they’ll be there. Conveniently, Labour’s spending cuts will not!

Video courtesy of Guido Fawkes.

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Miliband TV Channel

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David Miliband MP

South Shields MP in new roles?

Well I’m glad you all tuned in, since it was revealed that I may be looking for a new media role I can tell you that I am also interested in being a highly paid “face” for Sunderland AFC, cannot promise that I’ll be at the Stadium of Light much though as I have this season ticket here at The Emirates.  I might also be a little pushed for time as I juggle my careers as Member of Parliament for South Shields, as well as non executive vice-chairman to Niall Quinn, – I hope I don’t upset the extremely good start they’ve had to the season but I’ll be really annoyed if they end up doing better than the Gooners, –  and part-time teacher. Don’t worry though, I’ll try my hardest to squeeze in the odd visit to South Shields.

Yes, I know, times are tough, unemployment is rising and it really hurts to be out of a job in the north east right now, I really feel for those whose homes are under threat of repossession or who have lost the company car, but with good mates around you things should be OK. It has to be better than the future that some MPs are facing!

Update 17:30

Jeff in Westminster wonders just how much spare time our MP has (although I think he is mistaken over the hours that Miliband proposes to teach), and some others imply that an MP cannot do his/her job fully if they are otherwise engaged elsewhere. It must be remembered, of course, that David Miliband still acted as our constituency MP whilst flying around the world ejecting people from their homes when he was Foreign Secretary (although a lot of casework was taken on by neighbouring MP Stephen Hepburn, as it is customary for neighbouring MPs to grow broader shoulders ). Many others still find time to get paid for speaking engagements or writing newspaper columns, but it is difficult to argue that one can be adequately seeing to constituency affairs on a day devoted to teaching in London, or chasing down a television or radio deal.

Jeff was initially in favour of increased pay for MPs, now he’s not so sure, he adds:

However, I do have a problem with MPs acting outside the job description and taking up part-time roles outside their democratic remit. If you want to be a tv star or a teacher then step aside and let someone else in to do the job that you were elected to do less than a year ago.

Does he have a fair point? Would the Member of Parliament for Jarrow be so lucky as to find additional well paid part time jobs?

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Miliband talks TV

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Miliband TV

South Shields MP looks for media role.

Almost laughable isn’t it, how many politicians have actually made a big impact on TV outside of politics?  Well, there’s Michael Portillo and …….err…..Ann Widdecombe……….oh, and loosely sticking to politics there was Brian Walden, away from those three the rest only made an impact as “Spitting Image” puppets!

Just what would the South Shields MP want to talk about anyway, and who would want to watch him? He lost Labour’s leadership battle to his more mundane and doubly dumber brother Ed, in a contest that sent the majority of us into a comatose paralysis, and the only person he seems to have excited over the past year is Hilary Clinton!

So I thought I’d try and come up with a few ideas to help David out, just in case the BBC or some independent producers are struggling to find a niche to fill with him. Over the next week or so I’ll be bringing you a few more snippets from “MTV” (MiliTV) highlighting those areas where David Miliband might just have some expertise and entertainment value (all in the name of good old fashioned satire of course.)

Today we are seeing a pilot from a still to be produced travel channel, check back for more over the next few days.

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Written by curly

January 10, 2011 at 10:38 am

Jacqui Smith for BBC Vice Chairman?

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jacqui smith

Most bizarre story of the weekend

Click picture for story

I guess the initial sifting interview will ensure that she doesn’t get the job:

Yesterday, when contacted by The Mail on Sunday, Ms Smith said: ‘How did you know that I had applied?’

Asked whether she thought her bid was likely to succeed, she said: ‘I have made an application, that’s all I know’, before adding ‘f*** off’ and terminating the conversation.

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Written by curly

August 1, 2010 at 11:00 am

When will our leaders come to our rescue?

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EU scheming to introduce direct taxation

It was only a few days ago that I was asking if there was any point in us having a Chancellor if his/her hands are tied by the bureaucrats in Brussels as they make decisions and agree them without discussion, and now I learn that the EU are cooking up a scheme to raise direct taxation which will allow itself to be funded without the interference of the governments of member states, they want to introduce a single flat rate tax on carbon.

Hervé Jouanjean, Director General of the European Commission’s Budget department, recently told a Brussels audience that the EU was “very close to paralysis” because of the reluctance of stretched national treasuries to give it funding.

“We should have a mechanism which would serve to exploit the possibility, in a progressive way, to lead to direct funding of the EU.”

If they are allowed to get away with this under the auspices of their new EU Constitution Lisbon Treaty we may as well give up on the idea of electing our own Parliament, what would be the point of holding elections for a legislature which has it’s tax raising abilities stunted, nullified, or dictated to by some faceless jobsworths in the EU? It is worth noting that although they might wish to directly raise funding via taxation there is no way that EU citizens will be able to directly remove poor performing EU Commissioners directly via the ballot box, oh no sir, the principle of no taxation without representation just doesn’t seem to apply to Brussels.

In a further example of EU madness, Lord Tebbitt the former Conservative Party Chairman asks in his Telegraph blog (gradually becoming a must read)

“When will our political leaders come to the rescue of the British people?”

He notes that all three of our major parties in Britain are Europhile whilst he asserts that the public are becoming more Eurosceptic and sets out his reasons why he believes this situation has developed. He makes the point that British security could be threatened by the refusal of the EU to allow our security services to operate a “watch list” on people suspected of terrorist activities, and also points us to another odd decision emanating from Brussels which could cause harm to Britain:

On Wednesday I heard on the BBC (so it must be true) that it looks as though Our Masters will shortly ban the use of pet passports and compulsory inoculation of dogs from the EU. That, according to the doctors and vets, will make it certain that a particularly foul parasite will infect our dogs, foxes and small wild mammals, and then humans with a potentially fatal liver parasite. That apparently is one of the benefits of membership of the EU. The extraordinary common feature of these two outrages is that whilst they will damage us, in these islands, they will bring no worthwhile benefits to other Europeans.

Tebbitt writes in that familiar acerbic style with a smattering of his dry wit, in a blog which is gathering a decent readership, and well worth a visit.

But back to the meat, the Lisbon Treaty was not good for us, we were not given an opportunity to have a referendum or direct vote on it, we were assured by Miliband and Brown that Britain’s interests would be secure and that power would not be leaking from Westminster to Brussels, yet now David Miliband, the South Shields MP and Foreign Secretary sees so much power ebbing away from a job that he mused over, that he is apparently now telling Baroness Ashton how to do the job and retain the power that he wanted in it!

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Written by curly

March 5, 2010 at 10:30 am

Do we need to know why Venables was recalled to prison?

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Jon Venables

Does the debate miss the point?

I’ve been following an interesting debate on Victoria Derbyshire’s Radio 5 Live show this morning regarding the information (or lack of) released into the public domain following the news that Jon Venables, one of the killers of Jamie Bulger on Merseyside in 1993 has been recalled to custody. It was a crime which rightly shocked the whole nation and that shock was compounded by the knowledge that his ten year old killers were released from custody on licence after only eight years  in 2001 with new identities protected by the courts at enormous expense to the taxpayer.

Although the recall to prison seems to have sparked a difference of opinion between the Justice Secretary and the Home Secretary, a matter which Iain Dale believes ought to be a big story, for me it just illustrates that there is confusion and disconnect at the heart of the government and that confusion has spread to the public domain resulting in the emotive crap that I’m hearing on the radio right now. Some sort of factual information ought to have been given about what type of licence condition had been breached by Venables, without necessarily being specific, along with a full explanation of the licence conditions applying to his release, such information may have helped to inform the debate and calm some of the frenetic people calling the BBC, – education is a wonderful thing.

However, despite the fact that radio stations are debating why, why not, ifs, buts, maybes, and other trivia regarding the case, we ought to be remembering the one thing which nobody from the Justice Secretary downwards has bothered to mention, nobody that I can see apart from Timmy who succinctly cuts through the crap with this post, is that a life sentence is just that, regardless of minimum tariffs. If rehabilitation somehow goes wrong, or if an offender fails to follow the agreed terms of an early release they will be carted off back to prison (or in Venables case to an adult prison for the first time) without any recourse to the courts or a judge and jury. Unfortunately his only commenter so far has also missed the point.

This case is an illustration that at least part of the justice system is working, and although we don’t know why, we ought to be reassured that his life sentence continues (at least until the next meeting of the parole board.) Where we need further concrete reassurance is in the case of killers released on to the streets who somehow manage to return to the courts to face further charges of murder or manslaughter, why are they not just forced to sit out the rest of their life sentences in some miserable place, like HMP Dartmoor, without the expense of additional trials?

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Written by curly

March 4, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Posted in BBC, Blogging, Crime, Law, News

Tagged with

How to help in an election, part 32

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Foot in mouth disease returns to the UK

I listened to the full furore that erupted around Radio 5 Live this morning as I drove around South Tyneside from one supermarket  to another hunting down some elusive powder for Mrs. Curly, Sir Nicholas Winterton did himself and David Cameron no favours at all by playing the buffoon in a row over his interview with Total Politics. Just as the Conservatives thought they were re-establishing a lead in the polls today the BBC decides to grill Winterton in an interview with Stephen Nolan, damaging might be the least way of putting it!

Sir Nicholas and his wife Anne, also an MP, have long been targets of Guido Fawkes, who has an excerpt of the interview at his place, are both retiring from the House of Commons at the next election, a point that most listeners appeared to miss, and neither will be sadly missed outside of Derbyshire.  One of the gripes that he whined about was first class travel, which was probably why he was targeted by the BBC, in the Total Politics interview he said this:

“And now they want to stop members of Parliament travelling first class. That puts us below local councillors and officers of local government. They all travel first class. Majors in the army travel first class. So we are supposed to stand when there are no seats. And why are we going to waste our time when we can work on the train as we do. I’m sorry. It infuriates me.”

He whinged that it left MPs below the level of local councillors (who can also benefit from first class travel) and that often he carries on working hard for his constituents when travelling by train:

“But in order to be able to do that they need to be able to sit down, and you can’t always do that in standard class… and you also need quiet and sadly, you don’t very often get that in standard class.

“If I was in standard class I would not do work because people would be looking over your shoulder the entire time, there would be noise, there would be distraction.”

“They are a totally different type of people.

“There’s lots of children, there’s noise, there’s activity. I like to have peace and quiet when I’m travelling.”

It’s that statement above that the Socialists will grasp on tonight, I don’t suppose that Winterton will be able to do anything else except travel by train from now on, he certainly won’t be able to walk with that huge hole in his foot! Not sure if he shot it or put it in his mouth and chewed some off, the blerk has been a total oaf and the interview this morning was slow motion train crash in glorious technicolour!

Oddly enough, I did agree with many of the things he said, it is for Parliament to decide what is right for MPs, but it is also right that the way in which they decide should be open and transparent, and that we should decide at elections whether or not we have agreed with their decisions.

I also sympathised with his arguments over first class travel – yes, I did, I cannot imagine that South Shields’ MPs David Clark or Arthur Blenkinsop enjoyed lesser comforts when travelling than our present representative David Miliband. However we live in exceptional times, times in which we have gained a larger than expected insight to the lives and largesse of our representatives, the public here in South Shields and across the UK have made it pretty clear that the expenses and allowances of MPs have been perhaps too generous and certainly too secretive in the past, and that these things must change after the next election. We pay our MPs a tidy salary, and afford them sufficient to pay their staff and cover their necessary expenses (which does not include hanging baskets or cleaning out moats), many of them they work hard on our behalf and if they feel they need to carry on working when travelling that’s fine by me. If they need to use first class carriages on the trains to afford them peace and quiet so they can concentrate on constituency matters that’s fine by me too!

Just don’t expect us to carry on paying for it!

There are plenty of other people in professional jobs who have to continue working when they travel, many use first class, and many buy their own ticket, MPs should get a strict amount of first class tickets and once they are used they should dig into their own pockets!

Winterton is one of those perfect examples of the discredited troughing Parliament, a body of people who lived at a high standard throughout a gruelling recession whilst the rest of us paid for them and struggled: neither he nor his wife will be in the next Parliament, it is to be hoped that a new set of MPs will draw up radical new rules that go far beyond what the current government of Gordon Brown is proposing and set about cleaning up Westminster.

Goodbye Nick and Anne, oh what plank you were today.

Oh, and by the way, since the poster wars have hotted up, here are a few more “I’ve never voted Labour before” posters.

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Written by curly

February 18, 2010 at 5:46 pm