Testing Times for Labour in Hartlepool

There are interesting times ahead in Hartlepool. The byelection has been forced by the appointment of Peter Mandelson as the new European Commissioner. Mandelson won his comfortably safe seat at the last general election with 59% of the vote. But times have changed and there are many who will see this appointment as another example of the arrogant cronyism we’ve come to expect from Blair’s administration. The Liberal Democrats have enjoyed massive swings in the last two byelections, and have now selected a candidate to scare the pants off Labour. Jody Dunn is a prominent barrister, lives and works in the constituency (while still managing to raise four children! Labour are ready to be taken down a peg or two in Hartlepool and I reckon Jody is the woman to do the job.

Political Defection and the Political Compass

What a curious thing it is when a politician feels compelled to “Cross the Floor” (ie change his party). When this takes placed he will be universally denounced as a “traitor” by the members of his old party. His new party, however, will welcome him as a man (or woman) of conscience – someone who puts what they believe in before party lines. Cynics will see self interest – may be the defector joined a more electable party? Others see exactly the opposite – someone who would rather risk losing his seat than continue to represent a party he no longers feels he can support. And we’re not just talking about back-benchers here – the great Winston Churchill changed his party not once but twice!

So what do you do when the party that you have supported for years, changes so much that you no longer feel that you belong there? I supported Labour for many years. But over the Blair years, the party has changed so much (and let me down so often) that I was forced to re-evaluate where I fitted in to the political spectrum. It’s not that my beliefs had fundamentally changed on any particular issue – more that the party had shifted so much to the right that I could no longer tell where they ended and the Tories began! And they let me down in so many ways too – failing to deliver on manifesto commitments hwne you have such a huge parliamentary majority is, I think, unforgivable.

So my problem was – deciding where I fitted, politically. Where could I find a home where I could be true to everything I believed in, without having to compromise. I spent quite a bit of time on researching manifestos, policy statements and speeches and as a result, I am confident that joining the Liberal Democrats was the right move for me to make.

However, most of us just want to know how we should cast our next vote. How many of us just vote for who we think we should vote for without really considering where the parties stand on the issues that matter to us? I found a fascinating website where you can find out where you stand in just a few minutes. The Political Compass website will ask you where you stand on a number of diverse issues – and then tell you where you belong on the spectrum. Fascinating stuff because it also allows you to compare yourself with famous leaders past and present. And you’d be surprised where it puts Tony Blair!

Fair Trade

How much do you pay for a posh cappucino? £2? £2.50?
So how much would you expect the coffee grower to get? 50p? 75p?

The answer is shocking. About 2p from the price of that posh coffee will actually reach the grower. The trouble is that a small number of very big companies buy most of the world’s coffee. This gives them the ability to drive down prices. The price of coffee has fallen significantly in recent years and the coffee growers and their families suffer.

Fortunately, there is something we can do about it. Companies like CafeDirect sell top quality coffee (and tea) at competitive prices, but pay the growers a much higher proportion of the money.

Find out more at CafeDirect

To learn more about Fair Trade in general, take a look at Make Trade Fair

Kunzle Showboats

Who can forget Kunzle Showboats?

Delicious chocolate shells filled with fondant cream,
sponge and topped with more chocolate or small sweets.

You could buy them individually in sweet shops and
coffee shops. or your mother would buy a box of them
for Sunday tea.

Then all of a sudden, they disappeared from the shops.
What happened?

Well, I have been trying to find out for several years.
The original Kunzle company became the property of
Lyons in the late sixties. Lyons continued to produce
Kunzle Showboats for a while after that.

More takeovers and mergers followed over the years, and
now the Lyons brand is owned by RHM Limited. You may
never have heard from them but they are a giant food
group who are also behind the “Mr Kipling” brand.

Somewhere along the way, Kunzle Showboats got lost.

Why do I care – why should you care?

Kunzle Showboats were a unique (and delicious)
confection. They were also a part of British child hood
for a generation of people. There is nothing else
remotely like them.

When I talk to people, many also fondly remember the
little chocolate cakes. They had so much chocolate,
cream and decoration there was little room left for
sponge – they were sheer indulgence.

I have seen them discussed on the internet, and also
discussed on radio phone-ins. I feel sure that if
enough of us told RHM Limited how we felt – they would
realise that reviving them would be good business for


Bring Back Kunzle Showboats!