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Archive for the ‘Alexandra Murphy’ Category

What makes Britain British?

Posted by allie1985 on November 5, 2008

 According to the Telegraph, phone boxes are now generally unprofitable and out dated,  but they are by no means under cherished in Britain.

BT has plans to get rid of the majority of phone kiosks, but the fact that they have given people the opportunity to “adopt” or “sponsor” a phone box has come as a welcome surprise.

Conservative lawmaker Alan Duncan has put his full support behind the scheme with the view to protecting an “iconic image in Britain”

“It goes with black taxis and double Decker buses. Both in rural and in urban areas the red box itself is seen as part of the local streetscape”

Incidentally Mayor of London Boris Johnson is putting double Decker buses back on London’s streets, claiming they “were never suited to London’s streets” and “that will once again give London an iconic bus that Londoners can be proud of”.

 The iconic red phone box

Sir Gilbert Scott, a British architect, first designed the box in 1924.  It was adapted several times before it became the box we know today. The current design is known as the K6, (kiosk 6) and was produced in 1935 to comemorate the silver jubilee of King George V.

Sir Gilbert Scot wanted the new k6 booths to be silver with an inside of “greeny blue”  to emphasise their relation to the silver jubilee but the post office would not allow it. They insisted they were painted red. The official Post Office colour.

The only place where the boxes were not painted red was Kingston upon Hull. There the boxes were painted cream because they were managed and owned by the Corporation of Hull instead of the Post Office.

 Collectors items

At one point there were around 70,000 phone boxes in use, but after technological advances they were decommissioned. Many were scrapped but somewhere bought by collectors and ended up in galleries and peoples gardens. Three thousand phone kiosks have been give the status of listed buildings, and are therefore a permant part of Britain.

What makes Britain British?pb060106

Red Phone Boxes

Red Double Decker Buses

Red Post Boxes

Black Cabs

The changing of the guard

Roast Beef with Yorkshire Puddings

Rain, lots of it.

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Alexandra Murphy



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Adopt a red phone box

Posted by allie1985 on November 5, 2008

November 2 2008 was the cut off date to ‘adopt a red phone box’.pb060105

BT has decided to scrap more than a third of our countries iconic red phone boxes because they are no longer financially profitable. However they agreed to sell off 500 of them to local authorities in an effort to preserve a part of our countries heritage.

For the small fee of £1 a community can buy a phone box and it is theirs forever.

Chet Patel, director of BT Payphones, said “Local people have spoken and BT has listened to their views by coming up with the adopt a payphone schemes”

The first place to ‘adopt’ a phone box was Lighthorne, a small hamlet 90mile north west of London.

“Our red telephone box is a focal point for our village and is part of its overall identity and heritage. We’re pleased that BT devised this scheme allowing communities to preserve their much loved red kiosks” said Josette Tait, chairman of Lighthorne Parish Council.

 Why is BT getting rid of the phone booths?

According to BT, not enough people are using phone booths and over half were no longer turning a profit.

Gemma Thomas a BT spokeswoman said “Payphone usage has declined dramatically since the advent of the mobile phone”

According to the Telegraph newspaper, the red kiosks were said to be among the booths that were losing money. They say it costs around £1000 annually to maintain a red box and people are just not using them. Josette Tait admitted that to her recollection the Lighthorne box had not been used for about a year.

Adopt or sponsor?

As well as adopting a phone booth, BT has also introduced a sponsoring scheme. To sponsor a phone booth cost £500 per annum, but this keeps the phone booth as a phone booth. When the booths are adopted BT remove all the equipment inside, just leaving the red shell.

What will become of the empty phone booths?

Many town councils are planning to turn the booths into notice boards where residents can pin up town information, although others are considering using them as green houses and miniature art galleries.

 In Kingston upon Thames red phone booths have been turned into a piece or art by having them leaning up against each other in a domino effect.

So far around 400 of the Phone booths have been either sponsored or adopted. BT has said it want to errantly get rid of another 400, and are in negotiations as to what to do with another 4,000.

 Backup piece-What makes Britain British?


Alexandra Murphy


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Patricia Pleased with Pensions

Posted by allie1985 on October 28, 2008

Since the 1990’s Baroness Patricia Hollis has been campaigning for women to get a better deal on pensions.

Last week she finally got her wish.  The government have amended a bill to let women buy back their missing National Insurance payment years.

She said: “It’s really good news. Women too often have to choose between looking after themselves and looking after their family. “By enabling them to buy back their missing years they can now recover some of their lost pension”

“Other groups which could benefit include people who are self-employed and those who took time out to be a student or to go abroad”

However the Baroness does point out that the Government improvements could make a few women worse off

“It only makes sense if you have at least 20 years of contributions already or you could be better off on the married woman’s stamp or with pension credits.”

This is an important move as currently only 35% of women receive a full state pension.


Previously ministers had rejected Hollis’s campaign and refused to let women improve their pensions by allowing them additional top ups. They were allowed to ‘buy back’ up to six years but that was as far as the Government would go to improving the situation.

However last week James Purnell, secretary for work and pensions,  decided to amend the new Pensions Bill to enable all people to buy back another six years. That makes a total of 12 years that people can buy back.

 Improvements to the bill 

The bill is set to be debated in the Lords next week and includes other improvements for women’s pensions.

A new system of NI credits is to be set up. This will recognize the value in unpaid work caring for children, elderly relatives and the disabled. People who do these jobs will be credited just as those with normal paid jobs are.

By 2010 the amount of contributions needed to be made by people to receive the full state pension will also be decreased. It is currently set at 39 years for women and 44 years fro men. Under the new law, both will be decreased to 30 years.

 BBC Article 

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Alexandra Murphy



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Extra pensions-but who benefits?

Posted by allie1985 on October 28, 2008

Nearly half a million people are being given the chance to buy back 6 years of National Insurance contributions to increase their state pensions.

90% of which are women.

However the government minister in charge of the project believes just 110,000 people will apply.

She also confirmed that the price of contributions will be increased.

 What this means

At the moment only 35% of women receive the full state pension.

Under current law to receive the full amount women need to have made 39 years of NI contributions, for men it is 44.

The majority of women fail to meet the required 39 years due to time off for raising children, and looking after elderly and sick relatives.

Under the new scheme the number of years of contributions a woman needs to make will be cut from 39 to 30.

They will also have the option to buy back another six years worth of contributions.

Although this only applies to people who have made over 20 years of payments.

 Who this affects

This change in law applies to both men and women who reach he state pension age between April 6 of this year and April 5 2015.

This deal does not help those who retired before this period.

 In Simple terms

According to the Daily Mail,

“The change in the qualifying period essentially means that a woman retiring on April 6, 2010, with 30 years’ contributions would get the full basic pension of £87.30 a week but prior to today’s announcement one retiring just a day earlier would get only £67.23 a week”

 The costs

It currently costs £420 per year to top up NI credits.

The cost is set to rise, but it is not yet known by how much. This is in order that the cost to the government remains “neutral”.

Rosie Winterton, the Minister for Pensions said “We have to draw the line somewhere and balance the need for individuals with the need not to draw enormously on the public purse”

 Is it worth it?

According to Baroness Patricia Hollis

“It represents a very good buy indeed”

“If you took out a loan at 7% at the point of retirement for those six years and you paid it back over five years, even while you were paying it back you would make a modest profit of £2 or £4 a week and after five year you would be absolutely in hand”

 DWP link

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Alexandra Murphy


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Suicide in Switzerland- budding rugby star dies.

Posted by allie1985 on October 21, 2008

This week it has emerged that another Briton has killed himself at a suicide clinic.

Daniel James, 23, died on September 12 2008 in a Euthanasia Clinic in Switzerland. He travelled there with his parents, Mark and Julie.

This draws further attention to Debbie Purdie’s case to the High Court. She is asking Sir Ken MacDonald to clarify the law concerning friends and relatives helping the sick travelling to a foreign country where assisted suicide is legal.

Sir Ken MacDonald is the Director of Public Prosecutions for the High Court.

According to the Mail on Sunday, Dan James is the youngest known Briton to travel to die by assisted suicide in another country.

The case is also considered unusual because unlike most Daniel was not suffering from a terminal illness.

 Budding rugby star

Until 18months ago Daniel was a promising rugby hooker.

According to the Telegraph, Dan had represented both England Students, and England Universities and was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps and play professionally.

He was studying construction engineering at Loughborough and was in the middle of his degree when he suffered an accident.

The rugby player was paralysed from the chest down after a scrum collapsed on him seriously injuring his spine.

For someone who had such an active life, Dan’s parents said he found his situation “unbearable”

 His parents

Detectives are questioning Julie and Mark, but both defend their decision to help their son to die.

“Daniel found his life so unbearable and tried to commit suicide three times” Assisted suicide was his only option other than to starve himself.

“Over the last six months he had constantly expressed his wish to die and was determined to achieve it in some way”

Mark and Julie agreed to help their son as they could not bear seeing their son so unhappy. He did not want to live a “second class existence”.

“Our son could not have been more loved, and had he felt he could live his life this way he would have been loved just the same, but this was his right as a human being, nobody but nobody should judge him or anyone else”

 The facts

Euthanasia is illegal in Britain but as of 2008 it has been legalised in four neighbouring countries, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Over the last 10 years about one hundred Britons have travelled abroad to kill themselves. Most travelling to Switzerland to the Dignitas clinic in Zurich, where it can cost up to £3000 to end your life.

So far nobody who has assisted those ending their lives overseas has been arrested, although several have been investigated. If arrested and found guilty, Dan’s parents could face up to 14 years imprisonment.

Backup piece


Alexandra Murphy


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Judicial Review of assisted suicide law

Posted by allie1985 on October 21, 2008

Debbie Purdy, 45 is trying to force the High Court to clarify its position on assisted suicide in foreign countries.

She wants Sir Ken Macdonald, director of Public Prosecutions, to decide whether friends and family who travel to help love ones die are exempt from prosecution.

Currently all forms of suicide and assisted suicide are illegal in the UK.

 Debbie Purdy

Debbie Purdy suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. It is a long-term degenerative disease which can leave the sufferer in large amounts of pain and discomfort.

Purdy is already in a wheelchair and wishes to be able to take her own life when the time is right. She does not want to have a reduced quality of life or be a burden to her loved ones.

She is planning to go to the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland to end her life, but is concerned for the welfare of her husband Omar Puente if he accompanies her.

“If I leave it too late and need his help, he faces 14 years in jail. And that’s more frightening to me than going to Switzerland by myself and ending my life before I’m ready”

Despite this Omar has confirmed that he will accompany his wife no matter the risk.

 Briton’s who have died abroad

Since the Dignitas clinic open 10 years ago, about 100 Britons have ended their lives and to date no one who assisted has been charged.

Although some have been investigated.

But for Debbie this blind eye approach is not adequate, she needs to know for certain.

“I want to know what the law considers to be assisting suicide – is Omar open to prosecution if he helps me into a taxi to the airport, or books my flights?”

Judicial Review

In June the High Court granted Debbie a judicial review in to the current law.

According to Lord Justice Latham “The process of determing how to end one’s life is as much part of the process of ordering one’s life as any other serious decision”

There has yet to be a verdict.

 Other cases

Previously, in 2001 Diane Pretty also wanted the courts assurances that her husband would not be prosecuted if he help her to die. Diane suffered from Motor Neuron disease. Her request was not granted and she died a few months later.

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The Macpherson report- a summary

Posted by allie1985 on October 14, 2008

In 1999 following the murder of Stephen Lawrence an enquiry was made into the Met over allegations that the force was riddled with “institutional racism”.

It was conducted by Sir William Macpherson and was brought about due to allegations that the police had not behave appropriately at the scene of Stephen Lawrence’s death and with the investigation that followed.

The report confirmed that the Met was  “institutionally racist” and that there was gross misconduct on the part of the police during the Stephen Lawrence case, primarily dues to racist views.

Their misconduct included failure to administer first aid to the victim as well as failing to follow obvious leads and failure to arrest subjects.

It also highlighted that the suggestions made in the 1981 Scarman report after the Brixton racial riots had been completely ignored.

The new enquiry presented some 70 reccommendations for the Met to embrace and extends the number of offences that can be classed as racist.

It presented a “zero tolerance” approach to racism and its aim was to make the police more accountable for acts of a racist nature. This enquiry is known as the Macpherson report.

Aspects of the enquiry relating directly to internal racism in the police force include

•    A review and revision of racial awareness training in police forces
•    Police officers would be subject to discipline up to 5years after retirement
•    All proven cases of racial “words or acts” to lead to a disciplinary and then to almost certain dismissal
•    Complaints against police officers should be handled externally so as to ensure a fair out come. The investigation of police officers by other police officers was “widely regarded as unjust”
•    Regular reviews of the selection process for promotion, to ensure fairness and equality
•    Annual reports to be published examining ethnic minority recruitment, promotion and retention levels

Another important aspect of the report was the recommendation that police forces should reflect the ethnic and cultural diversity of the communities in which they serve so as to make the force more accessible and approachable to the public.

To view a list of all 70 recommendations follow the link.

Main article

Alexandra Murphy


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Bobbies Boycott the Met

Posted by allie1985 on October 14, 2008

Over the last week London Mayor Boris Johnson has issued an investigation into racism in the Met.

This followed from the suspension of two leading ethnics in the police force. Assistant Commissioner Tarique Gaffhur and Commander Ali Dizaei are the men in question and the NBPA (The National Black Police Association) are urging minorities to boycott the Met due to allegations of inequality.

The complaint originally stemmed from the apparent lack of promotion for non-white officers.

Mike Fuller, Britain’s only Black police chief, said on Panorama  “Ethnic officers will often have to work twice as hard to be recognised, to compete with their peers and that is a big concern.”

The NBPA itself suggests that the Met has a “hostile atmosphere where racism is allowed to spread”


The boycott is being supported by the Society of Black Lawyers. Their chairman, Peter Herbert said although “there has been significant progress in the overall recruitment of minorities…. they are not getting into specialist sections of the police”.


Talks between the Met and the NBPA to call off the boycott began and ended on Tuesday when black officers took offence at a comment made by senior Met officer Martin Tiplady. He used the phrase “you people” when trying to distinguish between the Met and the NBPA.

A senior source at the association has acknowledged “everything has broken down. We will not talk to the acting commissioner or engage with him”.

The boycott is still on the cards and the group are using their community networks to ward people off joining.

Contrasting opinions

Interestingly, many ethnic police officers have spoken out against the boycott including Chief Superintendent Mak Chishty, a Muslim, who was quoted in the Daily Mail saying

“I don’t feel I have ever been held back. I have not suffered any abuse from my colleagues”.

He also said that he thought the boycott to be counterproductive and “I can’t see how it is going to be helpful in any way for people of an ethnic minority background not to join the police”.

He then pointed out that a good level of support should be provided for everyone interested in rising through the ranks at the Met but “the level of competence must be the same for everyone”.

The investigation

Boris Johnson’s investigation is to be conducted by Cindy Butts, a black independent member of the NBPA who believes the boycott is a disappointing step backwards and that “we cannot allow this issue to derail police and community relations”.

The primary purpose of the investigation is to examine whether there has been significant changes and improvements in the forces attitude towards race since the last Macpherson report in 1999.

Backup piece

Alexandra Murphy


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