World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day- the annual day dedicated to raising awareness of HIV worldwide. People often think of HIV/AIDS as only affecting people in the developing world, but we mustn't forget that there are now more than 85,000 people with HIV in the UK - with 7,300 newly diagnosed cases last year.

I've supported a motion in parliament - Early Day Motion 47 - which recognises the importance of World AIDS Day. But clearly we need to continue our efforts to tackle the problem both at home and abroad and appropriate funding needs to be found for organisations like the National AIDS Trust (NAT) who work in this field. You can find out more about NAT here.

Old Moat Park Green Flag Raising

After attending the vigil at Southern Cemetery I went to Withington to help hoist the recently awarded Green Flag. Congratulations should go to everyone involved in achieving the award.

What I wasn't expecting was to have to climb part way up the flag pole to retrieve the cord that the flag has to be attached to! I had heard the story of the stolen green flag at Manley Park from Alex the Park Warden. I only had to climb up about 5 feet, (with a bit of help from Alex and Lib Dem councillor Norman Lewis) but I would not have fancied my chances of getting up to the top!

Southern Cemetery Vigil

This afternoon I attended a vigil at Southern Cemetery, organised by Unite Against Fascism, to condemn the recent spate of vandalism of Muslim graves at Southern Cemetery. Desecration of graves at the cemetery has been happening for a long time - one of the first campaigns I was involved in, more than 10 years ago, was when Jewish graves were vandalised at Southern Cemetery.

The vigil was supported by people from all the political parties, and we showed a united front against these disgraceful acts of mindless vandalism. Racism has undoubtedly played a part in this vandalism, and there is no place for this behaviour here in Manchester.

Click on the image on the left for a short video of the vigil.

The Copenhagen Climate Summit

Wealthy countries and corporations have become rich through a model of industrialisation that has pushed the planet to the brink of catastrophic climate change. But it's poorer communities, those least responsible for climate change, who are already facing its worst impacts.

300,000 deaths are caused by climate change every year and we now owe a massive climate debt to the world's poorest people.  That's why this evening I agreed to meet with members of the World Development Movement and the Jubilee Debt Campaign to sign the petition calling on Gordon Brown to take action on climate debt.

Back to School

This morning I was delighted to be invited back to my old school, Manchester Grammar School, to speak to the High Master (or Headteacher everywhere else!) and to be shown around the new developments that have taken place over the last few years. Some things are still the same, even after 20 years. I was being shown round by the Head boy and Deputy Head boy, and we bumped into my old Physics teacher Mr Hand. He single-handedly succeeded in getting me an "A" in 'O' Level Physics, and to this day I still don't know how he did it! But a lot has also changed, including a new junior school for year 5 and 6.

From Manchester Grammar I went to join parents and carers of Ewing in their protest against the Labour Council's plans to close Ewing School. The Council is now going through the statutory closure process, after the Labour Councillors ignored the objections and petition against the closure.

The Lib Dems in Manchester have already committed to reversing the decision if we take control of the Council at the local elections in May next year, but there is still the chance for the Council to reverse its decision and keep the school open.

White Ribbon Day

This morning I was supporting The White Ribbon Campaign, which is an international campaign working to get men involved to end male violence against women. Every week, 2 women in the UK are killed as a result of domestic violence. Wearing a white ribbon is a pledge never to commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women.
I joined fellow Lib Dem MPs Sandra Gidley and Annette Brooke to back the campaign.

Soup and the Salvation Army

I spent all of Monday in the Constituency this week so that I could go the funeral of an old family friend. The service was at my Dad's old church in Altrincham, and I've not been there for over 20 years. It seemed a lot smaller than I remember. I met up with a lot of people that I had not seen in a long time, and a few who I'd seen only a few months ago at my Dad's funeral.
This all meant that I didn't travel down to London until this morning, and for the second train journey in a row there was a delay, this time due to high winds bringing down some electricity cables around Hemel Hempstead. Fortunately it didn't delay me too long and I still managed to go and support the "Soup Lunch" hosted by The Salvation Army in Victoria Tower Gardens, and to hear about the excellent work that goes on all year round to support the homeless and the lonely.

Peri Peri Chicken vs Hotpot!

This afternoon I was invited to officially open a new takeaway in Chorlton called Chunky Chicken. Some people might question why I agreed to do this when I have regularly argued against more takeaway conversions and the need to retain traditional shops. Nevertheless I think it is important to support local businesses especially during these tough economic times. I have to say that the food was great and if it is like that all the time they will be very successful.

This evening I am at a fundraiser for the Friends of Chorlton Water Park. The Friends group put a lot of hard work in to improve the Water Park and so it's great to see so many people here to help raise some much needed money. Unfortunately I have to give the hotpot a miss, because I am still full from the peri peri chicken this afternoon!

Lunch at Burnage Community Centre

I often drop in to Burnage Community Centre with Cllr John Cameron on a Thursday for their old people's lunch. Cath Biggar has done a brilliant job of building up support (and funding) for the lunch, and there is regularly  a hall full of people.

While I was there today the main topic of conversation was about the PCT's plans to close the walk-in centre next door. People were signing the petition against the closure and saying that it is far too far to be expected to travel to Withington Community Hospital by public transport.

While we were talking about the NHS we got onto talking about the flu jab. After the emergence of swine flu it is even more important that people take the opportunity to have the jab to keep them safe this coming winter. One lady told me that she was booked in for next week. We mustn't forget that about 8000 people in England and Wales die as a result of flu in the winter months, and we need to encourage as many people as possible to have the vaccination.

Meeting at The Christie

This morning I met with Jim Martin (Chairman) and Caroline Shaw (Chief Executive) at The Christie Trust Headquarters. They wanted to let me know about their plans to bring a high beam proton therapy service to The Christie. There are likely to be 2 sites, with one in London, and the other in the North. The Christie is the obvious choice, and I will certainly be backing plans to bring it to The Christie.

While I was there I also took the opportunity to raise the on-going problems of parking around the hospital. Although the situation has improved with the introduction of the multi-storey carpark, there are still problems on some of the surrounding streets, while spaces still remain in the new carpark. I've been assured that extra permits have been issued, and there are more to be issued soon. I hope that this will help to alleviate the problem further, because parking problems remain a cause of great concern for those local residents who have cars parked outside their houses from early morning until the evening, often restricting access to their drive.

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