WHAT a curtain-raiser last Thursday was for next year’s ballot box bonanza...

So now be prepared over the next ten months to be confronted by Westminster going on a UK tour - with UKIP’s purple rosette being added to the carnival colours.

There will be more newsletters and party political broadcasts to look forward to on telly – which will encourage us to put the kettle on even more and overload the national grid.

I am already a keen member of the Inferno Independent Tea Party, eager to drink in the prospective political promises from Tory, Labour, Greens, Lib Dems, UKIP, The Monster Raving Looney Party and others.

But can I put a request in now for politicians from all these parties to look at one issue in particular - apart from the jobless, immigration, the environment – etc?

I urge MPs and our councillors to get together and look at: ticket touts; heavy-handed bailiffs (who have just been given the licence to charge higher fees) and illicit wheel-clampers. But most urgently - the ugliest scourge of modern day life - loan sharks (cue music from Jaws).

The very name sums up their odious occupation.

Research from Government and other agencies has shown that up to 200,000 people in the UK use loan sharks.

It is despicable that some charge extortionate interest rates, but when I read that dubious collectors - working on their behalf - wait outside school gates with dogs, it is time these people were banished from operating in such a vile way.

It is a dire dilemma for anyone having spiraling debts hanging over their heads without the sleepless-night-inducing thought that some intimidating bully is putting even more pressure on them.

Life is already tough for families and individuals who have felt desperate enough to go to a loan shark. They need as much protection, sound financial advice, and help that this Big Society of David Cameron’s can give.

Agencies such as Citizen Advice Bureau are doing their best - but they can’t do it alone. We need a Government minister - a Loan Ranger - to take on these heartless sharks.


The lady’s not for turning…” said Mrs T when asked about a U-turn.

Now the one-time Chingford Skinhead, as Spitting Image portrayed him, has made his own U-turn.

On his blog for a broadsheet, Lord Tebbit has said he will “eat a fair plate of humble pie” regarding comments he made about food banks that people only used them to save money for junk food.

Norman, who once said jobseekers should “get on their bike” to look for work, admitted he was wrong on a visit to the Trussell Trust initiative in Suffolk.

He said: “I was impressed with the quality and dedication of the people working there to help people in many sorts of difficulties.

“There was a systematic approach to uncovering the deeper problems which brought people to the point where they simply did not have enough money to buy adequate food.”At 81, he’s fast becoming Stormin’ Norman.


I had an Eton Mess dessert the other day to celebrate the end of local and European electioneering.

I asked the waitress why it was given such a name - was it after the politician-breeding public school Eton?

She shrugged. All became clear when it arrived - a sickly, sticky coalition of cream, mushy meringue and raspberries.

So, now I know.

And finally...I was bemused by all these themed weeks conjured up by public relations people cynically created for clients such as “National Doughnut Week” or “National Curry Week.”

I suggest we have “National Ponder Week” where we think about life’s mysteries.

One came to me this week when I discovered a monkey had escaped from Chester Zoo. Charles Darwin believed we all evolved from the apes. If that’s the case, I pondered (while eating a banana), why are they still around?