Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Better Together

The Leicester Mercury asked two Leicester political figures to make the case for 'Yes' and 'No' ahead of tomorrow's referendum. Professor Colin Copus represented the 'Yes' side and I made the case for a 'No' vote in Scotland. I hope we see a 'No' vote in the referendum. I firmly believe we are better and stronger together.

You can read the Leicester Mercury feature here.

I am also pleased that last week Leicester Town Hall joined public buildings across England, including 10 Downing Street, in flying the Saltire flag as a demonstration of our solidarity and commitment to the Union.

The photos below show my colleague Assistant Mayor Vi Dempster and I raising the Saltire and Union flags at the Town Hall.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

My challenge to FA: free England tickets for school kids to help fill Wembley

I am calling on the Football Association to do more to fill Wembley for England friendlies and get more kids watching international football.
 Following last week's match against Norway in front of a crowd of just over 40,000, leaving the national stadium half empty I have written to FA Chairman Greg Dyke asking that he makes tickets available for free for school children in Leicester, and other towns and cities across the country. 

My letter to FA Chairman Greg Dyke can be read below.

I am also appealing to local businesses to sponsor the transport costs to help local schools.  

England's manager Roy Hodgson has even admitted that it is likely England will play in front of small crowds in the Euro 2016 qualification campaign, telling the BBC:

"We'll find it hard to bring attendances back to very high levels because the opponents we're playing won't excite the public."  

It is absurd when we see England playing at Wembley with vast areas of the stadium empty. There are fans across the country who would love to see England play but ticket and transport costs to Wembley make this difficult.

For matches with a likely low attendance the FA should make tickets available for free to help encourage the next generation of England supporters and to promote the game. 

I have challenged the FA to make 1000 free tickets available for school kids in Leicester for the next England match with a likely low attendance, and I am confident we will be able to get local businesses prepared to sponsor the transport costs. I am sure we have local businesses who will want to back this initiative and do their bit to help local schools and give local young people the chance to see England play at Wembley. 

I want kids in Eyres Monsell, Highfields, Saffron and from across Leicester to have the chance to see England play at Wembley. Seeing the national team play in the national stadium will be a great experience. This can help boost aspiration and encourage wider interest in football and sport. 

Sometimes the FA is accused of caring more about corporate sponsorship and big money in football than ordinary fans. This would be a great way to show that is not the case. I am sure England's players would prefer to play in Wembley stadium when it is full, let's have Leicester's school kids given the chance to help create a good atmosphere for an England match in the future.

Leicester Mercury article on this can be read here.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

999 CALL for NHS: Leicester rally: the campaign must go on

Thank you to everyone who attended the 999 CALL for NHS rally in Leicester's Town Hall Square last weekend. We were able to give a warm welcome to the marchers as they arrived in the city.

The rally gave us the opportunity to show our opposition to the government's destruction of our NHS and to redouble our efforts to campaign and fight for the NHS we believe in.

To coincide with the march arriving in Leicester, the Leicester Mercury printed an open letter signed by MPs, the City Mayor, Councillors, Parliamentary Candidates, members of the Campaign Against NHS Privatisation, trade union activists and Labour Party members.

The symbolic march from Jarrow to London concludes this Saturday in London. The marchers are an inspiration to everyone who cares about our NHS and who is involved in campaigns to save our health service. I was proud to speak at Saturday's rally in Leicester and to welcome the 'Darlo Mums' and fellow marchers to the city.

We are seeing growing waiting lists; NHS staff under pressure with reducing budgets; people struggling to get a GP appointment; the A&E crisis and a crisis in mental health services. We need the NHS to move forward on the values that built it. An NHS more concerned with compassion than competition law, more concerned about care than competition and an NHS that will always be about patients and not profit.

Frontline NHS staff continue to do an excellent job and they must be allowed to get on with the jobs they love and the jobs they joined the NHS to do. Cameron and Clegg's NHS reorganisation is without any mandate and is about ideology not improving the health service.

The campaign must go on to defend and save our NHS.

The letter and full list of signatories can be read here.
Follow the 999 CALL for NHS march via their website here.

Speaking at the Leicester rally. Photo; Will Johnston.

Letter of support printed in the Leicester Mercury.