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POLITICIAN OF THE YEAR

01-01-2007

Our elected representatives often get a bad press but at least three local figures have shownover the last year that they're willing to stand up andbe counted. The Stirrer gives praise where it's due and names his West Midlands Politician Of The Year.

Deirdre Alden, councillor for Edgbaston in Birmingham deserves praise for fighting to keep an "out of hours" doctor's surgery open through the night for residents in the south of the city.

The Stirrer broke the news that the healthcare provider Badger who were taking over the "off- peak" practice in South Brum wanted to centralise services in the city centre between 11pm and 6am - very efficient for them no doubt, but hardly handy for parents with a sickly child.

Once Deirdre was tipped off about the proposed change, she went at it like a rotweiller - or at least a decent watchdog - which is entirely appropriate as she is chair of the Council's Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

She insisted that Badger's plan should be looked at again, and as a result South Birmingham has had it's late night GP facility guaranteed.

On the national scene, the WestBromwich East MP Tom Watson deserves commendation for giving up his cabinet job in an attempt to topple Tony Blair - surely the most loathed Prime Minister since Margaret Thatcher.

Watson was the most senior figure in a backbench rebellion that also included previously loyal backbenchers Sion Simon (Erdington) and Khalid Mahmood (Perry Barr).

Watson may be rewarded with another ministerial position if and when Gordon Brown becomes PM, but also knows that his act of open disloyalty may also haveleft a lingeringquestion mark against his name.

In any event, quitting a high-flying job you've worked so hard to achieve is not done lightly and was the act of a courageous politician.

The Stirrer's top honour for 2006 though goes to John Hemming, the Lib-Dem MP for Yardley, who has fought tirelessly on behalf of parents wrongly accused of harming their children in order to draw attention to themselves – a condition known as Munchausen’s Syndrome By Proxy.

One of their persecutors-in-chief was controversial medic Dr David Southall, whose evidence also helped to falsely convict solicitor Sally Clark for murdering her baby sons.

Southall was subsequently banned from working in child protection for three years, and although he’s otherwise enjoyed a distinguished career, some of his research methods have attracted criticism.

He has carried outexperiments for example, withoutparents' informed consent, which involved temporarily stopping children breathing.

Hemming’s reward for trying to open up medical files about these cases and alert parents about their contents has been to face the threat of legal action from Southall's employers at North Staffordshire Hospital Trust.

They have warned that they might sue him for the cost of their legal advice.

Surely the cash-strapped NHS has got better things to with its money than try to silence elected representatives who simply want to know what’s been going on.

Hemming, as tenacious as they come, has simply told the Trust to "go forth and multiply".

It's great to see a local MP not simply taking the cash for sitting on the back benches then taking on loads of well-paid directorships but actually getting stuck in and trying to make a difference.

Do you agree with The Stirrer? Who's your local politician of the year? Leave a comment on the messageboard.

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