I go to a hanging

Went to a hanging! Well – not quite. As Shadow Minister for Women I went to celebrate the ‘hanging’ of the portraits of women MPs in our party groups at the National Portrait Gallery.

This project to celebrate women in the House as well as all the anniversaries this year of womens’ suffrage was driven forward by Boni Somes of Women’s Parliamentary Radio amongst other projects.

Boni had managed to get us all together in our party groups and be photographed on the steps opposite Westminster Hall entrance – albeit on the Liberal Democrat one Julia Goldsworthy and I had to be photo-shopped in. It was an impossible task – but Boni managed it.

Anyway Angela Eagle for the Government, Teresa May for the Tories and myself all spoke and championed the need for more images of women and celebrations thereof – to encourage more women to come and join us. To support the cause – Lib Dem MPs Jo Swinson, Susan Kramer and Sandra Gidley rallied to the cause.

There was a view that the portraits would be better hung at Parliament – so in fact I believe that is what will happen.

17 seconds wait for a cab?

Digital Conference on Thursday. I am not sure how I got to be keynote speaker at this breakfast at the RSA – but here I am. The company that invited me – Panlogic – turns out to have come across me through one of their directors living in the constituency, reading my blog and visiting my website. As the research they are launching today is basically about e-marketing and demonstrates that the age group between 50 and 65 (us ex-hippies with conscience, peace and love man) are still desperately caring people who want to engage in issues and change things for the better. I think their research is spot on.

Day of two speeches really. In the evening I go to one of those wonderful old city halls as keynote speaker at the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers’ Dinner. To you and me – a black cab evening. I am hand-clapped in with the ‘Master’ and other honoured guests in time honoured tradition. I get a quick briefing on how I will address the company. Dinner is enjoyable and I am lucky in that the guest to my right, the Master and the Master Clock Maker (a woman on the other side of the Master) are all absolutely delightful company. In fact, Diana, turns out to have been a constituent but has moved away now. She is a wonderful example of the changing face of the city in that she is the first-ever female Master Clock Maker – and that spans about four centuries.

Anyway, I am there to give a speech after dinner. I have crafted it quite carefully as the LTDA (one of the representative groups for drivers) has previously attacked me for saying there are not enough cabs around due to a driver shortage. They counter-claimed saying that you never have to wait longer than 19 seconds to hail a taxi in central London. Tell that to poor Susan Kramer who waited 25 minutes outside Parliament only this last week! It was rubbish – but there is a kind of jobs for the boys section of the trade who do not actually want to reach the targets set by Transport for London. Last year when I annoyed them evidence had gone to the Transport for London Board showing that there was a shortage of 1,200 black cabs and 4,500 private hire cabs. The concern has to be that if there are not legitimate cabs to hand – people will use the touts with all the dangers that entails.

I wafted across the need to crack down on touts, the Olympics and told my David Blunkett joke. And then home. Or so I thought. Having come by Tube, I got on the Tube home. But – hey ho – it’s the Northern Line and the Barnet branch was suspended. So I got off at Camden and after half an hour waiting for my 19-second taxi I got back on the Tube and went to Golders Green. No 210 and no taxi. Dying of cold and now about quarter to one in the morning, I phoned a private hire company and eventually a mini-cab came for me.

Labour and civil liberties

I go to speak at the Liberal Democrat London Region Conference. I, Susan Kramer MP and Sarah Ludford MEP are on a panel answering questions from the attendees. However, the earlier debate is heated and running overtime and Shami Chakrabarti, the Director of Liberty has already arrived and is timed for 4.30pm – so I suggest to my co-panellists that we cut our session from an hour down to just half an hour. So that’s what we did.

Shami did a truly star turn. She has a phenomenal use of the English vocabulary – and a delivery that is very winning in manner. And of course, she is delivering music to Lib Dem ears – the civil liberties agenda. Her job must be a constant delight – to fight the good fight – and get paid for it! I think she is an excellent proponent and a real champion of this agenda.

She slides through all the terrible thefts we have witnessed since Labour came to power. From Control Orders, to ID cards, to proposals to remove trial by jury, to religious hatred legislation (removing free speech), to banning behaviour as a substitute for real cure, to the terror laws and the extension of detention without charge, to retention of DNA records on a national police database regardless of guilt or innocence – to name just a few. These are not just the ones that Shami brought up – but they are what has become a litany of loss. Shami finished with the shameful move to accept evidence got by torture. One wonders where it will end and just how far this will go.

Cheadle by-election

I go up to Cheadle to lend a hand in the by-election which followed the sad death of Patsy Carlton. I canvas for about three hours in the midday sun – and despite lashing of sun cream – the bit on my back I couldn’t reach bears bizarre strap marks the next day.

Then I do some delivering – but we all have to be back for a photo-op with Charles K at 4.30pm. After which I (and Susan Kramer) decide we have had as much as our old bodies can cope with and travel home on the train together.