Birmingham Tory Questions Climate Change

Just days ahead of Copenhagen, the Conservative PPC for Birmingham Ladywood has questioned the science behind the man-made climate change argument.

As the City Council was passing the "Birmingham Declaration on Climate Change", Cllr Colin Hughes went on a libertarian rant accusing his Council colleagues of using climate change as an excuse to boss people around.

Whilst I agree complex government "just for the sake of it" is unnecessary, solving issues such as climate change requires cross-party support and strong leadership at all levels of Government. This is exactly what Birmingham has done - something which should be celebrated, not belittled.

According to Adrian Goldberg's Stirrer website, Hughes said:

“Climate change devotees still rely on these models, despite the fact that we know these models to be wrong, for end-of-the-world predictions to justify their proposed actions.

“What this means is that we should be very careful before spending huge amounts of the public’s money on schemes that may not be necessary.

“The research needs to go on because there is huge gaps in our knowledge and understanding but while the science is lacking there are authoritarians on all sides of this chamber who can’t help but to use this issue to boss people around and to tell others how to run their lives.

“They’ve jumped on this bandwagon and use it to excuse any and all government interference into private lives. We are elected by the people of Birmingham and we owe them better leadership than that.”


Birmingham Declaration On Climate Change

Ladywood ward - city centre housingBirmingham Liberal Democrats took a bold step this week proposing the “Birmingham Declaration On Climate Change”, which was adopted at Tuesday's full Council meeting.

Proposed by group leader Cllr Paul Tilsley and seconded by Ladywood’s Parliamentary Candidate Cllr Ayoub Khan, the Declaration shows Birmingham’s desire to lead the way out of this dual economic and environmental crisis we find ourselves in.

The Declaration will mean the country’s biggest local authority will use its purchasing power to stimulate the city’s green economy, creating new jobs whilst reducing energy bills for the residents.

I am delighted to see a commitment to connect 10% of homes to district heating systems, something which is already happening in Ladywood. There’s also a commitment to create a further ten eco-communities based on the successful Summerfield model.

In addition to this, the declaration states that by 2015 all Council vehicles should be electric or LPG, an electric car charging infrastructure will be developed, 50% of the Council's energy use will be from renewable sources, the Council's energy consumption will be cut by 25% and 10% of homes will have retrofit insulation.


Cardinal Newman “Miracle Man” Visits Birmingham

Deacon Jack Sullivan from Boston USA, who was cured of a crippling spinal disease after praying to Cardinal Newman, founder of the Oratory Church, visited Ladywood earlier this month.

The only TV interview he gave was to local project TNT News. He told TNT how the Vatican earlier this year approved the cure as a miracle and Newman is likely to be made a saint next year.

This is of special interest to me due to my ongoing involvement with the Cardinal Newman Project. The Deacon spoke to one of the project team and his input (and particularly the video record) will be an invaluable addition to the project archive.


Birmingham Marks World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day BirminghamEvents to mark World AIDS Day took a welcome new direction in Birmingham this year. On Monday a free gala concert was held at the Town Hall featuring singers, dancers, comedians, cabaret and theatre from diverse groups across the city. On World Aids Day itself, students from South Birmingham College staged a fashion show in the iconic Selfridges store, which was immediately followed by a red lantern parade.

Despite awful weather, I joined about 100 hardy souls on the parade route from the Bullring up to Birmingham Cathedral, where a short (non-religious) service of remembrance was held.

A “wall of love” was made available for people to light candles and leave messages in rememberance of loved ones lost to HIV/AIDS.

This annual visual act of remembrance is so important to keep up the awareness about HIV and AIDS. As I commented on Lynne Featherstone's excellent blog post, if even just a few of the onlookers went home to google the subject, then it was worthwhile.

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SHOUT – How Was It For You?

SHOUT Festival 2009On Sunday the closing party of the first ever SHOUT Festival took place at Birmingham's Nightingale Club, featuring lesbian comedienne Clare Summerskill and the brilliant talent of singer-songwriter Declan Bennett.

The LGBT cultural festival was the brainchild of the Birmingham LGBT Trust and has been run as a pilot with a view to sustaining a permanent event. I was asked to join the steering committee over a year ago because of my involvement in founding Birmingham Blaze Football Club in 2005 and running the Distraction alternative club night for three years. I was quick to accept as it seemed a great opportunity to help explore an alternative to the commercialised party that Birmingham Pride has become in recent years.

I co-led the sports strand helping to write a successful bid to Sport England, organised a gig night at Eden Bar and advised on the use of social media.

It's been hard work but the year of planning really paid off as the programme of visual arts, performing arts, sports and community events was successfully delivered. Highlights for me included the successful sports taster sessions, the DIVAS night at the Glee Club and Queer Question Time at the Hippodrome.

We'd really like to hear what you thought of the Festival, so please take the time to fill out a short evaluation if you attended one or more of the events.

Roll on SHOUT 2010!

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Frankfurt Market Back in Birmingham

Birmingham German MarketA few weeks ago the German Market arrived in Birmingham - Christmas is officially here! Selling the usual trinkets, toys, gifts, food and drink, the market has already drawn huge numbers and we've only just entered December.

Despite the price rises there seems to be a friendlier, more jovial atmosphere at the market this year, perhaps people getting into the festive spirit after a troubled year?

There had been complaints from local publicans that the market takes trade away. But what happens when the market closes at 9pm? People make their way to the pubs!

The market is open from 10am - 9pm every day until 23rd December.


Jewellery Quarter – November Update

It's been a busy few weeks for me and I've fallen behind with my blogging, so here are some of the things I missed from around the Jewellery Quarter:

Shout Festival projection on to Big Peg
  • As part of Birmingham's SHOUT Festival, 30 LGBT artists from around the world saw their work projected on to The Big Peg (image above!). The Birmingham Queer Open drew entries from around the globe and selected artists represented countries as diverse as Canada, USA, Russia, Israel and Italy.

  • The Jewellery Quarter’s farmers market, 24 Carrots, continues to do well. The Christmas special market takes place on Saturday 5th December.

  • An invite-only stakeholder consultation day for the Jewellery Quarter’s “Golden Square” will take place on Tuesday 15th December.

  • You can view the latest proposals for Albion Square here.

  • The Vaults on Newhall Hill slipped into administration but it is hoped a buyer will be found.

  • Last week the Jewellery Quarter’s themed Christmas lights were switched on and as is now custom, a three-legged Santa Race took place! MyJQ captured the fun on video:


Ladywood’s MP says Commons votes are “pointless”

Ladywood’s current MP, Clare Short, has said that taking part in House of Commons votes is “pointless”.

New figures show Clare took part in less than one in eight votes over the past 12 months. She is quoted in the Birmingham Post:

"Most MPs automatically vote for the government or against the government depending on which party they are in.

“I am often in the building when a vote takes place. But everyone knows the Government is going to win the day whether I take part or not.

“I will vote on an issue where it is a matter of principle, or where my independent vote might make a difference to the outcome.”

Although I understand her reasoning, by not voting it means her constituents views are not being represented.


Birmingham Concert Crush – Never Again

I arrived home from Plymouth yesterday to see news reports of the crush injuring 60 people at Millennium Point.

Watching the video coverage above it seems cancellation was the only option. But that's about the only thing the organisers got right on the day. Where was the emergency access? Who on earth didn't realise JLS would attract that many people at a free event? We need a full investigation now.

The Christmas lights switch-on has become increasingly popular year-on-year and adding acts such as JLS and the Sugababes was only going to increase the demand.

Any future free events like this should be wristbanded in advance to protect capacity, keep people safe and prevent such a stupid incident happening again. It's a small price of inconvenience to pay for ensuring people's safety.

Update: This new question on Help Me Investigate will be worth following.

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Queer Question Time – The Verdict

Queer Question Time Birmingham

An all lesbian and gay panel took to the stage in Birmingham last night for Queer Question Time.

Peter Tatchell (Green) - Human rights activist and Parliamentary Candidate for Oxford East
Nikki Sinclaire (UKIP) - MEP for the West Midlands and candidate for her party's leadership
Iain Bowen (Lib Dem) - Birmingham City Councillor for Acocks Green ,
Philippa Roberts (Lab) - Parliamentary Candidate for Hereford
Gareth Compton (Con) - Birmingham City Councillor for Erdington

Chairman Steve Ball kicked off the debate, in the style of BBC's Question Time, in front of a decent crowd of around 150 at the Hippodrome's Patrick Centre. Audience members were asked to submit questions on the way in and as these things often do, the panelists and audience members then veered off into other directions during the debates. Some of the subjects discussed included equalities legislation, tolerance, gay pride events, the BNP, homophobia, education and section 28, the media and the police.

The panelists agreed on a lot of issues but there were some interesting clashes throughout.

Peter Tatchell was the clear winner for me. He barely touched on Green party policy, concentrating more on gay rights in general. He also spent much of his time picking up on the policies of the Labour government, doubtless with one eye on the political situation in Oxford East and Brighton Pavilion. Peter spoke well and was well received by members of the audience from every political hue.

Nikki Sinclaire caused less upset than her last "appearance" at Queer Question Time, but was still controversial. She appeared to defend her UKIP MEP colleague Mike Nattrass when he was accused (by both Gareth Compton and Iain Bowen) of being involved in the controversial New Britain Party (he stood as the "New Britain" candidate in Dudley West in 1994). She also did her best to dodge what specific policies UKIP have on LGBT rights. I found her overall attitude a mix of confrontation and naivety, which for someone with leadership aspirations surprises me.

Iain Bowen spoke well with good local knowledge and personal thoughts, rather than towing the party line, which I always like to see. Although he struggled with one or two questions I felt he put the Liberal Democrat position on equality across well. He was also passionate about the community and the police needing to work closer together, which prompted some heckling from the audience.

Philippa Roberts performed well defending the record of the Labour government on gay rights, for example civil partnerships, provision of goods and services, etc. However, she was uncomfortable when challenged (mainly by Peter Tatchell) on the current Equalities Bill working its way through Parliament.

Gareth Compton began very well but faded towards the end as he got drawn into bickering with Nikki Sinclaire. On more than one ocassion he made the verbal assumption that the next Government would be a Conservative one, which did not sit well with the audience. He also made the mistake of heckling Nikki Sinclaire for UKIP's European partners, not sensible considering the company the Tories keep.

For me the most interesting question was whether "gay pride" had replaced "gay politics". A lot of the battles have been won and therefore politics has fallen down the ladder when it comes to Pride events. But Birmingham Pride this year was far more party political than I remember it being for a long time. I helped to organise the Liberal Democrat presence, LGBT Labour also ran a stall and some Green party activists were in attendance too. In addition to this no less than THREE candidates in the upcoming European elections were there, Liz Lynne (Lib Dem), Nikki Sinclaire (UKIP) and Neena Gill (Lab).