Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Get on your bike to live longer.

Cycling to work can cut the risk of developing cancer or heart disease according to a study conducted by Glasgow University.

Researchers followed 205,000 UK commuters for five years and found that those who traveled regularly by bike were 41% less likely to die of any cause, with the risk of dying from cancer falling by 45% and of heart disease by 46%.

Commuters who walked to work also showed better health, but only if they walked over six miles a week.

Dr Jason Gill of Glasgow University told the BBC ‘this is really clear evidence that people who commute in an active way, particularly by cycling are at a lower risk’.

Also speaking to the BBC Clare Hyde of Cancer Research UK said the report helped to ‘highlight the potential benefits of building activity into your everyday life.’

Cycling is seen as being better exercise than walking because the exertion needed is more intense.

As the country faces a surprise general election health and transport are certain to be major issues for voters. This report brings the two together in one neat package, as a country we drive too much and walk too little; our health and environment suffer as a result.

In cities like Stoke-on-Trent where air quality is a serious problem having a transport system that makes it easy to get around and is more important than ever.

Local green Party activist Adam Colclough said ‘Stoke needs a fully integrated transport system that brings buses, cycle lanes and even trams together to end gridlock and boost both the environment and the local economy.

The Green Party is committed to creating a transport system that is not dependent on car use and that makes it easier for people to cycle and walk safely. In Green controlled Brighton journeys by cycle rose by 11% between 2009 and 2012, there have been fewer road casualties and harmful emissions have also been reduced.

Those benefits and more could be replicated in Stoke-on-Trent if the city chooses to change its political course and elect a Green Party MP on June 8th.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

We need a politics of hope and inclusion to give real meaning to this snap election.

You’re joking! Another one? Brenda from Bristol the OAP door-stepped by a journalist on the day Theresa May called a snap general election could have been speaking for the nation.

After last going to the polls in 2015, the upheaval of the EU referendum and, here win Stoke-on-Trent anyway, a hectic by-election earlier in the year the public are more than a little battle-weary when it comes to politics.

The Downing Street line on this latest election is that Mrs. May has called it to bring some much-needed unity to the nation’s political life as we head for the door marked Brexit. Look a little closer and what you really see is some nifty, if risky, footwork in the curious quadrille of party politics.

There seem, to this observer anyway, to be two motives behind the decision of this most cautious of prime ministers to stake it all on a throw of the dice.

The first is a desire to destroy, maybe permanently, the Labour Party as an effective opposition. She is relying on Jeremy Corbyn leading them to the sort of drubbing Michael Foot did in 1983, with the resulting internal strife putting them out of the game for at least a decade.

Fighting and, she hopes, winning an election now will provide enough of a majority to secure her position if, or more likely when, things get rocky over the Brexit negotiations and Tory backbenchers start looking round for someone to blame.

Like juggling hand grenades, it’s an impressive trick if it works; but if it goes wrong, it has the potential to do so messily.

What is there in all this cynical positioning for the British public? The answer is more opportunity than at first appears.

However often it has been repeated before this really is a chance to bring about lasting change. The upheavals of the past couple of years have proved that in politics nothing is ever certain, even more so at a time when the staus-quo is something voters are no longer prepared to accept.

We need a new type of politics based around hope and inclusion, not despair and division; a view of our national future built around the shared values that make us strong.

In Stoke-on-Trent that means talking about how this city deserves better. Better jobs, a better transport system and a better, stronger health service. These are all things the Green Party has campaigned for over the past four years, speaking up for local people when other, larger, parties either took them for granted or ignored them entirely.

The tired old politics of business as usual is no longer good enough; the time has come for a politics of hope and inclusion that will change this city and our country for the better.

Adam Colclough is the Campaigns Coordinator for North Staffs Green Party, the opinions expressed here are his own

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Public misbehavior gives politicians a bad name

It is, to anyone who has been involved with politics in Stoke-on-Trent little surprise that Richard Broughan, councilor for Abbey Hulton and Townsend, has wound up in hot water, again. This time for an, alleged, incident at a community event, for which he has been reprimanded and sent for ‘further training’ by the council standards board.

I have met him in person just once and, suffice to say, the experience was not an inspiring one. It was at a hustings event in the run up to the general election and, to use the polite parliamentary euphemism, he had ‘lunched well’; very well. It was past six o’clock and he was still higher than the International Space Station.

This latest incident including, alleged, inappropriate remarks made to someone dressed as one of Santa’s elves has more than a touch of Benny Hill about it. That might encourage some people to laugh it off; I’m afraid I can’t join in.

Life isn’t a Carry On film, the sort of remark Sid James might have made in the sixties and got a laugh now, rightly, is seen as disrespectful of the person at whom it is aimed. It is also deeply disrespectful towards anyone, whatever their party, position or gender involved with politics.

It gives credence to the tired line that all politicians are either fools or chancers. Having been involved with local politics for almost two decades I know this is a long way from being true. Whatever differences we may have on policy political people in this city are united by a genuine desire to do their best for our city.

He may have an eccentric, to say the least, way of going about it, but I should think that at some level is true of Mr. Broughan too.

I don’t know what his ‘further training’ will consist of, if they let me near to the blackboard for a moment I’d suggest it comes down to one thing; the bond of trust between the public and their representatives.

The public outpouring of grief last year following the murder of Jo Cox showed how deep respect for an honorable politician can go. Few of the people who laid flowers for could have met Cox during her lifetime, what they responded to was her entirely genuine and unselfconscious belief that politicians have a duty to serve the interests of their constituents above all else.

I can think of notable local examples of the same ethos set by men like John Beech, Mick Williams and Graham Wallace. None of whom could be described as having been compliant party hacks or stony faced puritans, what they did all demonstrate though was a commitment to and connection with the people they served that was truly inspiring.

The public recoiled in disgust over the scandal of MPs expenses not because they had stopped believing in politics; but because they still believe it matters. What, rightly, enraged us all was that a handful of privileged practitioners within the charmed circle of Westminster so clearly didn’t.

Nobody would want to be led by paragons who are perfect in every respect. What we value in politicians is that they have the same flaws and frailties as we do, but have chosen to set them aside, as best they can, in the name of the common good.

Acting out in public isn’t comical it is sad for the person doing it and suggests a self -destructive impulse deserving of sympathy not indulgence. It also makes it all the harder for the majority of politicians who are just doing their best to get a fair hearing.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Never mind a war with Spain, let's fight the battle for common sense.

The meeting between a former party leader and a microphone is seldom a happy one. If you don't believe me consider the case of Michael, now Lord, Howard.

On Sunday he told Sky News that, in his not at all humble opinion, Britain should go to war to keep hold of Gibraltar. Just to emphasize his point he drew compared the likelihood of the future of the rock and its monkeys with the Falklands war of 1982.

You don't need to be a psychologist to see where Lord Howard is coming from. He's reached the point in his political career where he has attained a certain level of prestige, but the power and purpose that made the job worth doing are a fast fading memory. What better way to grab a few moments in the limelight than by saying something controversial within earshot of a journalist?

So far, so predictable; the response though was as surprising as it was alarming.

You might have expected a little discreet eye rolling of the sort you get when an elderly relative says something inappropriate at a family gathering. Instead even though they didn't agree with him, publicly, the government didn't exactly slap him down either.

You could be forgiven for thinking that at some level Mrs. May and her cabinet like the idea of plucky little Britain squaring up to one of its oldest foes. Drake's drum is beating, the wind is full in the sails; let slip the dogs of distraction.

That, if we're honest is what this whole thing is, one big clumsy distraction. There is, of course, no likelihood of our going to war with Spain.

If the future of this historical and geographic anomaly enters into the Brexit negotiations it will be decided by just that, negotiation. Everyone's sword will stay sheathed and in all probability Gibraltar will stay British because that's what most people living there want.

Entertaining even for a moment an unlikely swashbuckling alternative serves as a wonderful distraction for a government that hasn't got a clue.

Last week Theresa May triggered Article 50 with indecent haste and nothing that resembles a plan. This is the biggest political event our country had faced since the war and the government are making things up as they go along. What could possibly go wrong; apart from everything?

If the UK is going to be a trading nation steering its own course through the world then we will need to make friends not enemies. Sadly that sort of common sense is missing from what passes for a large proportion of the government and media, not to mention the wider population.

Instead it is being drowned out by the din of patriotic music being played out of tune. People are being intentionally blinded with a rose tinted vision of a post Brexit Britain where all the passports are blue, the village clock is stuck at five to four and there is always honey for tea.

Behind it is a drive towards a hard Brexit led by the sort of right wing throwbacks who think the worst thing about zero hours contracts is that they're too generous. They will go to any length, even sabotaging whether we get a deal at all to further their interests.

Brexit is a reality, the people have spoken and their will expressed through the democratic process has to be respected. What we're going through has been likened to a divorce, unfortunately we seem to be being represented by a solicitor more used to doing a spot of conveyancing; who in turn has been landed with a fool for a client.

They say truth is the first casualty of war, it is starting to look like common sense is the first casualty of Brexit.