All together now...
Posted Saturday, 28 June 2008 at 21:54
I’m on the MPs away weekend at Latimer Place.
It’s nice to be able to chill together away from Parliament.
David is uber relaxed and everyone is milling about and having a coffee in-between sessions.
He is chatting to us about various things and something has just occurred to me – I am a member of an organisation which no longer behaves like a political party.
From the oldest to the youngest activist, the newest to the most experienced agent, from leaflet deliverer to MEP to CCHQ researcher to MP to candidate - we are all metaphorically holding hands and we are absolutely rock solid united behind David.
We are an army, and it feels good.
All together now…
Posted Thursday, 26 June 2008 at 19:52
Nothing to blog because I'm superstitious!
We have had a great day getting out the vote! Even my PA's sister Catriona!
The War Of The Mediums
Posted Wednesday, 25 June 2008 at 12:51
On Friday of last week I was besieged with telephone calls from journalists asking me to 'attack' Transport Minister Tom Harris MP, over a blog he had written asking why people are so miserable.
I declined the offer. Tom is a decent guy who is just doing what the rest of us blogging MPs are doing: trying to be more open and accessible to voters.
I was happy to comment on the more substantive issue and did so, but I wasn't prepared to attack Tom on a personal level, to the disappointment of a few journalists.
One of the more serious Sunday journalists told me over lunch last week that she was "terrified of all this blogging".
"Don't you realise I went to university and clawed my way up Fleet Street for this job," she said. She regards the internet and bloggers as a serious threat to both her job and the circulation of her newspaper.
Today, alas, it's Jeremy Hunt's turn - new to blogging he has dived in with all the right intentions, only to find himself savaged by a national newspaper for daring to write his honest non-policy thoughts on a blog.
This is getting serious. As a seasoned blogger here are my words of advice to any MP who is thinking of taking up the precarious art of blogging.
Take care, your first blog may highlight to newspaper editors everywhere how badly journalists - who are paid huge sums of money with vast liquid expense accounts - actually write; and even more alarmingly, how long it takes them to write it.
This will come as a shock to many editors and will result in the slashing of diary budgets everywhere. You will be blamed for this.
Be warned, journalists are paid to painstakingly winkle out of you the thoughts you will willingly share with your computer and the wider world. This is not funny. What you will deposit in ten minutes via your blackberry straight from brain to screen justifies a day, nay, a week's work for some of the lazier species of lesser reporters.
Be aware that you are entering a world of wisdom-sharing with the masses, which has always been controlled by the few.
The odd blogging MP was looked upon with an 'ah bless' attitude. Now many more are joining the ranks. Some good, some bad and some just plain marvellous. We are now officially a threat.
To many journalists this means out with the snooze pillow and in with the shorthand. We must be stopped!
And finally, I suppose most importantly, never ever attack or write about journalists. Even in the abstract - they really don't like that, and if you do, heaven help you, you're just asking for trouble.
The Summer Ball
Posted Tuesday, 24 June 2008 at 10:35
We held our Summer Ball on Friday night and this year Nicholas Soames, son of Christopher Soames, and grandson of Sir Winston Churchill, spoke to us.
No one wants to read a list of names. The angels know who they are. Thank you for such a well organised evening, and especially Pippa and Andrea.
To Dr Gillian and Ann, thank you so much for you know what!
Nicholas spoke about his subject of excellence, our armed forces.
We sat and listened to a previous Minister of Defence, the grandson of Winston, and a man who has a genetic passion for our troops, talk with absolute knowledge. When it came to questions, he took no prisoners. He knew exactly what he was talking about.
I have had so many messages from people telling me how much they enjoyed ‘touching his hem’ and listening to him.
Last week Sarah Bryant, stationed at Chicksands which is the intelligence unit in my constituency, lost her life in the course of duty.
A number of people have sent me emails since she died, expressing their thoughts regarding the role of women in war and our troops in general.
During the vote of thanks I told the assembled audience that I was hoping to get out to Afghanistan very soon.
Time after time I say goodbye to soldiers or airmen from my constituency, and I don’t always know what happens after.
Some tell me what it's really like. I feel that as the MP who listens to these men and women upon their return, I really need to know a little bit more of what they are talking about, and that is why I am going to make the trip.
I used one of the emails as the basis of my vote of thanks after Nicholas' speech.
I spoke about how none of us should complain on a hot day this year. We should think about our troops in full gear and back packs, too frightened to remove their helmets to wipe their brows, even for a minute.
When we kiss our children we should spare a thought for our troops who kiss photographs of theirs. And if you are lucky enough to go to bed with someone you love, think about those who, before they sleep at night, wonder if they will return to do the same.
I had to leave the ball early but I know everyone had a great time. If you are reading this and I didn’t get to your table, I am so, so sorry! In the words of Macmillan, events dear boy, events!
Pippa McLuskie, Deputy Chairman Mid Beds Conservative Association with Nicholas Soames MP.
Posted Monday, 23 June 2008 at 12:02
During the eco-towns debate in the Commons last week, I told MPs that the office of the Minister for Housing had contacted my Westminster office about her impending visit of last Monday. Her office contacted my office at 4.55pm on the Friday before.
“That’s not true” said the Minister from a sedentary position but still recorded by Hansard (see below).
I don’t like being accused of not telling the truth, so I contacted PICT (Parliamentary Information and Communications Technology) which looks after the Parliamentary telephones, and asked them to confirm who called my office on Friday 13th June between 4.45 and 5pm.
The number was confirmed as 0207 944 8951 and called at 16.43pm - The Office of Caroline Flint MP.
Don’t call me a liar Minister. It will come back to bite you. Of course the bigger issue is how can you trust a Minister who sits in the chamber in a position of office, and doesn’t tell the truth? Should such a person hold such an office?
The exchange as recorded in Hansard is below:
Nadine Dorries (Mid-Bedfordshire) (Con): It was interesting to hear the hon. Member for Bedford (Patrick Hall) describe a Bedford that I failed to recognise. However, as I wish to keep my remarks short so that my colleagues can speak, I shall not rebut the comments he made about transportation, the need for homes, the location for the proposed development, the lack of available jobs or the lack of growth in the area. I recognise the need for social housing in his constituency and in mine, but I suggest that people do not want to travel from Bedford to Marston Vale when there is no transportation and no jobs for them to go to. Instead of having 20,000 homes miles from where anybody else lives and where there is no opportunity for employment, we should look at regenerating areas in both constituencies, which already have good transport links, doctors, schools, shops and employment. The homes should be built in those areas, instead of having an eco-town on the outskirts of both constituencies.
19 Jun 2008 : Column 1117
The Minister came to visit my constituency on Monday and we are very grateful for that. If there had been more extensive and in-depth consultation with local residents, the Minister might not have experienced the welcome that she did. People are very angry, and I think that the Minister gathered that. We did not know about the Minister’s visit—my office was informed at 4.55 pm on Friday—
Caroline Flint: That is not true.
Nadine Dorries: It is absolutely true. We received a telephone call to say that the Minister would be visiting on Monday afternoon at 1 o’clock. I was promptly also told that I would not be invited to the meetings—with the developers who are to build on the proposed site and with local councillors and representatives of the local authorities—as they were private. However, the hon. Member for Bedford was invited to my constituency for that meeting. Another phone call quickly changed that—I hope that none of my hon. Friends ever has such an encounter. Thankfully, it was sorted out and I attended the meeting.
Click Here To Read The Debate In Full On Hansard
Posted Friday, 20 June 2008 at 10:35
When I lived and worked in Africa, I drove to Zimbabwe for food and supplies - it truly was the bread basket for Africa. Now world attention is turning to what is happening in Zimbabwe as the 27th June election marches closer. On Wednesday three of my colleagues raised the issue at PMQs.
What the world must know is that Robert Mugabe and his Generals are working to a little-publicised but clear plan that undermines the prospect of the elections being free and fair.
They have a three-stage strategy for "winning" the Zimbabwean Presidential run-off.
The first and most brutal part of Mugabe's strategy is a campaign of "Electoral Cleansing". This intimidation is designed to suppress the MDC vote and terrorise others into voting for the governing ZANU-PF. If this "electoral cleansing" fails and Morgan Tsvangirai prevails on 27 June, the military under the Joint Operational Command (JOC) will simply ignore the true result, announce their own outcome and quickly re-install Mugabe as President. The third and final failsafe element is to announce a "state of emergency" - in response to the escalating violence that they themselves have overseen. This would result in a de facto military takeover of Zimbabwe's Government.
However, at this stage (June 17) the Mugabe government is optimistic that the first element of the strategy will be sufficient to win outright. The "electoral cleansing" strategy is relatively simple. The JOC co-ordinates the arming of local militias, who in turn target known supporters of the MDC. The polling agents who oversaw Tsvangirai's victory in the 29 March election have been identified and beaten.
"Re-education" camps have been established on the edges of most major towns, in order to forcibly inter locals and intimidate them into voting the 'right' way. An example is made of a few in order that the many are kept in line. One or two people are tortured, beaten or killed in order to get the message the anti-MDC message across. In this way, Mugabe does not need to commit widespread murder or genocide in order to intimidate the electorate. It is targeted electoral cleansing.
The MDC continues to work, largely in hiding, to ensure the mounting reports of rape, violence and abductions get out. Friends of Zimbabwe are committed to passing details of these outrages on. Bernard Kondo, the MDC Councillor for Mutoro Ward, is just the latest opposition supporter to "disappear" (only two days ago on 14 June 2008). This morning Takalani Matibe, the MP for Chegutu West, was arrested and forced to watch as his home was burnt down.
The international community's chorus of condemnation in response is welcome, but its disjointed nature blunts its effectiveness. Concerted, forceful and united action is needed.
The world community must act.
It can start with a simple, unified and sustained condemnation of Mugabe's campaign of violence and terror. Zimbabwe's neighbours - South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique - are especially important. They can show the world that African nations support a democratic post colonial era. Tabo Mbeki can take the lead here. If he fails to do so he runs the risk of being seen as a man of the past whilst his rival Jacob Zuma shows himself to be South Africa's leader of the future.
And the election needs to be properly monitored. There must be a vast increase in the size and scope of the election monitoring mission. Without more election observers there is NO chance of a free and fair election. There are over 9,000 polling stations. At present only 300 observers are promised. They would have no chance of covering the balloting to ensure that election was free and fair.
The world community can make it clear that there are real consequences from allowing Mugabe and ZANU-PF to stay in power. Zimbabwe will face economic collapse. Mass migration will accelerate as more and more Zimbabweans escape the turmoil. There is the risk of chaos across Southern Africa.
The future of Zimbabwe lies not just in the hands of its own people. The nations of the world must act now...to end the bloodshed and ensure that elections are free and fair. Zimbabwe is an issue for the whole world.
(Many thanks to Mark Fulford and apologies for not posting this earlier this week.)
Children Aborting Babies
Posted Thursday, 19 June 2008 at 10:28
The figures released this morning by the DoH show that there is a 23 per cent increase in abortions in girls under 14.
The figures today show that children are aborting babies, which is a stark indicator of how the government has presided over a continuous and steady increase in abortion rates in ever younger girls. They have no access to help and guidance where and when they need it most; this results in a distressing and life altering spell in an abortion clinic.
Our children have never had so much sex education; but what they are taught, and how they are taught it, gives out the message 'now go and try this for yourself'.
The mantra in schools, with regard to sex education, is 'non-directional teaching'.
It should be directional, heavily directional. It should direct children towards values, morals, and the factual information that they need to know.
I haven't had the chance to look at European figures yet, but I wouldn't mind betting that there is no other country where the number of children aborting babies is so high.
Ampthill Needs A Car Park
Posted Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 12:54
What enables the commercial heart of a town to survive is footfall. Shops rely on people stopping, getting out of their cars, browsing and buying.
So many towns and villages in England have become ghost towns, as local shops have struggled to survive due to parking restrictions.
I like to use a High Street chemist and I wish everyone did. I think they provide an essential service to communities, especially the elderly and those who don't drive or are unable to.
They are being squeezed by supermarkets, parking restrictions, and the general turn in the shopping trend to head for the larger chain stores.
Novelty gift shops depend on the impulse buyer who won't get that impulse if they are stuck in a car.
There are so many painted yellow lines in Ampthill, which scream out the subliminal 'not welcome here' message, that I'm not sure how the shops survive at all.
As an MP, it's so much easier not to have an opinion on local issues. I do have the option of writing back to constituents and saying thank you for your letter, I will forward on your concerns etc - but Mid Bedfordshire doesn't have a pen pusher for an MP.
Ampthill needs a car park with long stay parking for the use of residents and shoppers. There I've said it.
Now where is the digger? I need a bunker.
Take The Hint Flint!
Posted Tuesday, 17 June 2008 at 11:17
The people of Lidlington discovered on Saturday afternoon that Caroline Flint, the Housing Minister would be at the Marston Vale Community Forest on Monday.
One of the reasons I suppose we were all informed so late in the day was in order to try and avoid any organised protest.
The Minister hadn’t counted on Parish Cllr Iain Clapham (in the pink shirt on my left) and the strength of local feeling.
I was amazed when I got out of my car and was met by a sea of posters and cheers. (Apparently, the Mayor of Bedford grumbled mightily about the cheers and became very tetchy!) Locals had been beavering away over the weekend and almost anyone who wasn't at work was there; they came on crutches, in buggies and in arms.
When the Minister arrived she was met by a chorus of boo's and chants, not a normal Bedfordshire welcome, but then we don't have 20,000 homes landing out of the sky every normal day .
I went inside for the private meeting with the Minister and listened to the developers wax lyrical about a Bedfordshire none of us knew or recognised.
I made four simple points:
There is very little unemployment in Mid Beds and as the Mayor pointed out, employers aren't clamouring to build on the brown field sites in Bedford.
The Mayor had already mentioned that Rookery Pit was not a done deal - I pointed out that the likelihood of NIRAH was even more perilous.
No jobs, no growth, why do we need 20,000 new homes?
The developers had done nothing to convince me with regard to the ECO credentials of the properties, in fact, they where decidedly evasive on this point.
Eco or no Eco? Or is this just the first stage of a massive new town development?
If the justification for this new planning process rests on the eco credentials of the application I would have thought that maybe this would have been the one aspect of the developers presentation which could have blown us away, but it didn't.
The people in Mid Beds are very unhappy and to date have been completely excluded from the consultation process. It's their environment, community and way of life which is about to be destroyed.
This new town won't be a development in the distance, it will completely sit upon and surround three substantial communities. To have been kept in the dark in this way and have information withheld in order to minimise the time people have to contribute to the process has been a shameful act and one guaranteed to whip up anger.
The infrastructure in Mid-Beds just can't take this. The M1 widening scheme has been halted, the A421 is congested and with no local jobs available if these houses are built and sold, the new owners will have to get into their cars and commute. What's Eco about that?
The Chairman of Renaissance Bedford - the Government body responsible for delivering the project - said he would wind up the meeting using my four points but with slightly less cynicism.
I suppose if you are unelected and don't represent the people you can be as uncynical as you like, take it away chairman, the people can't hear you speak.
And finally, thanks to the community forest staff for providing water to the protesters, you were great guys!
But the biggest thank you has to go to Iain, his small but dedicated band of helpers and all the people from Marston, Lidlington and Brogbrough who came and stood in the heat for two hours - the developers may not have blown me away, but you did!
Iain, John, Perry Como and others.
Posted Monday, 16 June 2008 at 17:13
And I love you so...
As I pulled into the drive to Wadhurst Castle which was where Iain and John's civil partnership took place, the Perry Como classic was playing on the radio. It has been a favourite since I was a girl. Perry Como was my singing James Stewart, the perfect man.
We began with drinks on the terrace, which is where Iain and John exchanged vows - at which point everyone suddenly went quiet. Not quiet in the normal way - the fact that something special was taking place hung heavily in the air. It was very emotional.
There were lots of readings which were all lovely, but it has to be said that the star turn of the day has to have been Iain's sister, Tracy from Essex. Put your daughter on the stage Mrs Dale! It was my first civil partnership and contained all the best ingredients of a good wedding. Everyone had a really lovely day.
At one point I began to find the whole experience quite surreal.
I looked to the left and Gyles Brandreth was striding towards me, hand outstretched saying , in the rather over-excited school boyish manner he has “We've never met have we?”
At that moment I heard familiar voices, but only from the telly, exclaiming “Ah Nadine” moving up behind me, it was Neil and Christine Hamilton.
"Gosh" thought I as I turned right squinting to see who it was walking along the gravel towards me waving, it was David Davis.
I looked down at my glass and thought “Is this champagne?"
Posted Monday, 16 June 2008 at 10:20
Well it certainly looks that way.
On Friday I got wind that Housing Minister - Caroline Flint MP - was rapidly arranging a meeting and a visit to my constituency on Monday.
We put two and two together, rang Renaissance Bedford, the organisation tasked with making the proposed new Eco-town happen and told them I was attending the meeting and could they send through an itinerary.
They obliged and also sent a list of attendees. The MP for Bedford was on the list; however, not one single proposed home is in his constituency.
We then sat back and waited for the official call from the Minister’s office to inform us of the visit.
It came at 4.55pm on Friday – to my Westminster office. I imagine it was one of the few offices left manned at that time on a Friday. I reckon the phone being picked up may have come as a bit of a shock
They spent ten minutes on the phone explaining that the Minister was visiting Mid Beds for fact finding and a private meeting and that under no circumstances could I, the local MP, attend.
My researcher didn’t say a word, but just let them keep on talking.
When the official from the Minister's office had finished my researcher said, "If it's a private meeting, why is the MP for Bedford attending?" And "Would you like a shovel?"
There was a cough and a hurried exit with a promise to call back.
The call came back loaded with profuse apologies and lurid details of how the official had been "torn off a strip."
You could smell the burning rubber from wheels in reverse down the phone.
The Minister is starting her visit at the Brogborough picnic site.
This new Eco-town is no picnic for anyone in Bedfordshire.
The Minister has allocated 1.5 hours to meet with the Eco-town developers (O&H Properties and Gallagher Estates) and 10 minutes to listen to local residents and their concerns.
Renaissance Bedford, the organisation charged with the responsibility to make the new town happen are organising the visit – so that’s nice and balanced then.
The MP for Bedford is still attending according to the attendee list, yet it’s not in his constituency and he has no government role in housing - so is he using an issue of grave concern to the people of Mid Beds for any other reason than political posturing, and a quick photo op?
Cynics amongst us think that this may be a quick PR stunt in order for the Minister to say she has visited the site and ‘listened to the concerns of local people' – all ten minutes of them and tick the appropriate boxes.
Or could it be because there is a meeting on Monday night at Bedford Borough Council to discuss the proposal?
So what is it exactly the Minister is scared of? Why not give the 1.5 hrs to the local residents and hear their concerns, after all, both Gallagher Estates and O&H have met with me in Westminster and could do the same with her.
Maybe it's because the Minister doesn’t want to hear that residents know that by 2016 according to the government's own targets, all new build homes have to be 100% carbon neutral - so why an Eco town now?
Or that residents know this is a planning scam to simply fast track large numbers of new build straight through the planning process.
And finally, the Minister allocates just 10 Minutes to travel from the Marston Vale to Bedford Town Centre …. they want to dump 20,000 homes here and can't even time a car journey right?
Heaven help us!
Out And About.
Posted Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 13:17
Yesterday was another busy constituency day, as is today! However it got more interesting as the afternoon wore on.
The previous evening I had spoken for quite some time to 200 residents from Liddlington about the proposed Eco Town - much more to come on that one!
The morning began with a busy surgery, followed by a question time session with the Bedfordshire Law Society.
Being sat in front of fifty lawyers firing highly legal questions at you is pretty daunting, with it being my first time it was not at all what I was expecting! I think I held my own and the lawyers present highlighted some very serious and important points.
From there I went straight on to a site visit and realised when I got there I had forgotten to throw my wellies into the car.
I traipsed across the countryside in 5’ heels - I was fine if I kept moving but the minute I stood still, I sank!!
There will be some people reading this blog who won’t be the faintest bit surprised to read this. I’m sorry, but I would rather take on the bindweed and nettles in heels than try and find the time in my diary to re-arrange.
I then went to wave off the region's Scout leaders and parents who were about to embark on a two hour hike. The Scout movement is active in my patch and it’s so great to see all those young people about to do something which does not involve a computer.
I then met with some local residents with regards to a planning application.
In the middle of all of this a little drama - which in itself highlighted to amazing effect how totally incompetent this government is - began and developed into something I will blog about early on Monday morning.
You will have to read it to believe it!
I am attending my first civil partnership tomorrow - it doesn't take too much work to guess who that might be.
I am amazed that John has allowed Iain to blog it. I have sat in on an "absolutely no way" supper, which just goes to show - all the best relationships are built on compromise.
It Never Rains...
Posted Thursday, 12 June 2008 at 16:04
So there I was, with Cllr Angela Barker in Houghton Conquest, looking a burst water main in the face, when my phone went.
It had just started to rain, heavily and I had left my coat in the car. BBC Look East were chasing me around the constituency to grab an interview about the Eco town poroposal public meeting that I am speaking at and I was late for a meeting/walk on Coopers Hill (more later) with Ed, who was going to teach me and others about the birds and the beetles.
As I was already late I said to Angela, “Shall we go and get some wellies and rubber gloves? I reckon we could fix this valve in a few minutes.”
I have always known that two women could do the work of ten men in a fraction of the time.
The phone went again and the heavens opened just as I was told “David Davis is about to resign, no details as yet, more to follow.”
As I said, it never rains.
Posted Thursday, 12 June 2008 at 10:20
Yesterday was one of those days. Labour whips prowling the corridors, Labour MPs hiding in re-cycling bins ( they wish!).
At one point, five MP- searching Labour whips all came together at once on the terrace, arms outstretched, fingers working the blackberries.
Someone needs to tell them, it works with a stick if your looking for water but you will never detect a rebelling Labour MP with a mobile phone!
It was high drama all day.
The vote last night had nothing to do with terrorism or detention and everything to do with saving Gordon's face.
Gordon says 24 weeks for abortion and the Labour whips fly into action, if 20 had won, we would have had a PM who was wrong. Wrong equals weak equals no respect.
Gordon says 42 days for detention, here we go again.
Only it wasn't so easy this time. The nine bribes for the nine DUP members votes which won him the night cost around £30million each, and that doesn't include the money he used to buy off some of the rebels.
24, 42, not a good combination for Gordon.
Now, how many months do you think it could be until the next General Election?
America's Toughest Sheriff
Posted Wednesday, 11 June 2008 at 17:17
Joe Arpaio is the Maricopa County Sheriff and keeps on getting himself re- elected over and over again.
I believe strongly that we should have County Sheriffs to replace Chief Constables, that they should be voted for and elected by the people, and therefore fully accountable to the people.
Which Sheriff of Bedfordshire would go back to the people for re-election having presided over rising crime?
One sure way to make sure your police force works is to make the top job dependent upon results: a performance related position.
A friend sent me this:
Sheriff Joe Arpaio created the 'tent city jail' to save Arizona from spending tens of millions of dollars on another expensive prison complex.
He has jail meals down to 20 cents a serving and charges the inmates for them.
He banned smoking and pornographic magazines in the jails, and took away their weightlifting equipment and cut off all but 'G' movies. He says: 'They're in jail to pay a debt to society not to build muscles so they can assault innocent people when the leave.'
He started chain gangs to use the inmates to do free work on county and city projects and save taxpayers' money.
Then he started chain gangs for women so he wouldn't get sued for discrimination.
He took away cable TV until he found out there was a federal court order that required cable TV for jails. So he hooked up the cable TV again but only allows the Disney Channel and the Weather Channel.
When asked why the Weather Channel, he replied: 'So these morons will know how hot it's gonna be while they are working on my chain gangs.'
He cut out coffee because it has zero nutritional value and is therefore a waste of taxpayers' money. When the inmates complained, he told them, 'This isn't the Ritz/Carlton. If you don't like it, don't come back.'
He also bought the Newt Gingrich lecture series on US history that he pipes into the jails. When asked by a reporter if he had any lecture series by a Democrat, he replied that a democratic lecture series that actually tells the truth for a change would be welcome, and that it might even explain why 95% of the inmates were in his jails in the first place.
With temperatures being even hotter than usual in Phoenix (116 degrees just set a new record for June 2nd 2007), the Associated Press reported: About 2,000 inmates living in a barbed wire surrounded tent encampment at the Maricopa County Jail have been given permission to strip down to their government-issued pink boxer shorts.
On the Wednesday, hundreds of men wearing pink boxer shorts were overheard chatting in the tents, where temperatures reached 128 degrees.
'This is hell. It feels like we live in a furnace,' said Ernesto Gonzales, an inmate for 2 years with 10 more to go. 'It's inhumane.'
Joe Arpaio, who makes his prisoners wear pink, and eat bologna sandwiches, is not one bit sympathetic.
'Criminals should be punished for their crimes - not live in luxury until it's time for parole, only to go out and commit more crimes so they can come back in to live on taxpayers' money, and enjoy things many taxpayers can't afford to have for themselves.'
The same day he told all the inmates who were complaining of the heat in the tents: 'It's between 120 to 130 degrees in Iraq and our soldiers are living in tents too, and they have to walk all day in the sun, wearing full battle gear and get shot at, and they have not committed any crimes, so shut your damned mouths!'
Now of course I am not saying I approve of everything he does, however, he obviously knows how to keep the residents of Maricopa happy, because they keep on re-electing him.
If the residents of Mid Bedfordshire don’t like me , they will sack me. Unfortunately when it comes to policing, they don’t have the same option.
Maybe it's about time they did.
Rank - It's a Man Thing
Posted Tuesday, 10 June 2008 at 14:36
Last night I entertained eight handsome men, plus Sam Coates , on the terrace of the House of Commons for Pimms and chatter.
The terrace in summer is one of the joys of my job. On warm days I find a quiet corner and it becomes my office.
The eight handsome men in question were associated with or from a place in my constituency that I can't talk about.
If I did, obviously I would have to shoot you, or rather they would, as they would be so much better at it than me.
It amazes me how much rank impresses men. They can get a bit carried away by it.
To a woman, rank is usually associated with buying shoes, as in "I'm not buying those shoes they're rank"; but to men it's something quite different.
The only man in a suit and tie that I have heard called Sir, is first in line to the throne. So when I was ordering the drinks last night, and I heard some of my guests addressing others as Sir, well, it did seem a bit odd. Nice, but odd.
Conversation focused on what if Obama becomes President. Will he listen to shrill Pelosi or sound Petreaus?
My guess is that should there be a Democratic victory, the future of Iraq will depend upon the emerging personal relationship between two men. Will Obama trust Petreaus? Will he listen and make his judgments based on the military expertise of a man most people in America must respect?
I was interested to hear how well the Americans are doing in terms of intelligence in Iraq; but as one of the group pointed out, the Americans are pouring billions into intelligence compared to our 20 quid. (Relatively speaking!)
I left last night thinking I knew a bit more about what goes on in secret in my constituency; but realise this morning I know nothing.
Sir is very clever!
Be Our Guest
Posted Monday, 9 June 2008 at 12:05
It has not been a nice weekend.
The frenzied attack against Conservative MPs and MEPs, orchestrated by and emanating from the left wing BBC and press has equalled that of an animal in its death throes. The more terminal the position looks for Labour, the more desperate the BBC and the left wing press become.
Are we all to believe that Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs and MEPs don’t make mistakes or are so different as human beings? I do not condone any misuse of allowance, however what we saw over the weekend was the equivalent of a McCarthy style witch hunt.
The attack against Caroline Spelman was particularly sickening. To take an MP, who ten years previously sought a meeting with the Chief Whip to query whether or not her arrangements were within the rules, which they obviously were, and then to be vilified before any inquiry has been held in the way the National Press, TV and bloggers have, has been appalling. As my postman said, “Ten years ago? Is this news?”
I hope that when this is sorted, her innocence will be declared by the BBC all day long just as it declared her guilty without proof or substantial investigation on Saturday.
The week before the vote on abortion, I was contacted by my local press to inform me that that the Labour spokesman for the area had made a complaint about my expenses to the Commissioner for standards.
The complaint was entirely inaccurate, without foundation and thrown out by the Commissioner, but that wasn’t the point. It was made in an attempt to destabilise me during the most important week of my career. Desperate left wing tactics.
If the left think this kind of behaviour endears them to the public, then I think it simply serves to epitomise how out of touch they are. The public can see right through this witch hunt, in a way they couldn’t see through cash for peerages.
The incoming Conservative government has many big dragons to slay, the BBC has to be the biggest.
My daughter Jenny, who is 20, begins work for me this week for six weeks as a paid intern.
She told me I shouldn’t put what she earns on the blog as it is against her human rights. I told her that as an MP's daughter, she doesn’t have any. She is being paid £7.50 per hour.
She has superb computer skills and one of her first jobs will be to start working through a packing case of letters, cards and emails received following the abortion vote, along with the full in-tray ready and waiting on her desk.
If Michael Crick or any other journalist would like to check it out she is working from my staff office, just be our guest.
Is there a better communication tool than a blog?
Two tales from America..
Posted Saturday, 7 June 2008 at 11:18
Whilst I’m typing about America I am listening to and kind of watching
It reminds me of the Captiva Island coast when I love it best, straight after a storm – and 9/11
Last night a true friend and neighbour took me for dinner at the Birch in Woburn. He is the kind of friend who understands my job and doesn’t mind if I don’t have time to return his calls. Ergo, I abuse his friendship, but he knows I don’t mean to
Every now and then he puts his foot down and texts to me a time and a place. I know I had better be there or I may lose something which is important to me.
After a bad day he will often meet me from the train late at night and over a glass of red listen to my moans – what a rubbish friend I am!!
There wasn’t anything we didn’t talk about last night. Family, hopes, aspirations, friends, dreams, fears, love, and hate - we did the lot.
Out of the evening came a tale which touched on a ‘there but for the grace of God’ feeling I get a lot in my job.
Closely related to my friend but at one time lost and out of touch, was a close female relative living on the east coast of America. On a snowy Boxing day morning 20 years ago she woke up six months pregnant to a cold empty bed, five daughters, a son and the realisation that no matter how much she cried or pretended it was otherwise, her husband had left her and she was on her own. He had taken the contents of her purse, the bank account, a young woman from the town - and there was no food in the cupboard.
She called neighbours in a futile attempt to track her husband down, but to no avail.
Sat at her kitchen table desperate wondering what on earth they where going to do, there came a knock at the door.
It was the pastor from the local church which she had never attended, he was with his wife. They were in two cars and left her the keys to one, along with brown paper bag after bag of food.
They set up an account at a local supermarket and paid the bill until she had sorted herself out.
Every day she and her seven year old son cut logs and kept the furnace going with green wet wood as best they could.
Ten years later, married to a caring but impoverished tradesman, she developed breast cancer. So advanced was she that the doctor ordered an ambulance to take her to the hospital straight from his office.
It was like a McDonalds drive thru. She was wheeled up to a window, asked for her Medicare card which she couldn’t afford and didn’t have and despite her advanced state, was turned away and taken back home by the ambulance.
Would one face of America exist without the other?
She was finally treated by the State; however, she is paying $300 per month for medication which she has to fund herself.
A British woman living on the east coast she has no delusions about America. She would be the first to say the American dream is not what it seems and yet, it is so much more.
It is not uncommon an as an MP to have sat in front of you late on a Friday afternoon a constituent who, as a result of whatever circumstances, has no money and is in a state of extreme distress. As MPs we know that to call upon the State on a Friday afternoon in a financial emergency would be a futile waste of time.
When this happens, we are the fourth emergency service.
An MP will often empty his or her wallet, whilst at the same time call upon the local church or Salvation Army. People who make no judgment, pass no opinion and leave behind parcels of food, kind words and the keys to a helping hand whenever it may be needed.
Many of us have cases where we cannot get the best drugs a constituent needs to treat breast cancer.
I wonder if those who enjoy America bashing ever consider the parallels between both societies?
The Next Generation
Posted Friday, 6 June 2008 at 12:58
ConservativeHome have surveyed the next generation of Conservative MPs with regard to their views on abortion. http://conservativehome.blogs.com/goldlist/2008/06/the-next-genera.html
86% support a reduction in the upper limit, the Daily Mail have got it covered.
I am in Parliament to day talking to lots of young people. It is quite amazing how the younger generation simply have no truck with aborting at 24 weeks.
I am encouraged by the survey results but not surprised. The Conservative candidates have been knocking on doors for years. They are absolutely wired into public opinion.
To have an upper limit of 24 weeks is seen as very un-cool by the teenagers I am talking to today and un-acceptable by the public at large outside of the Westminster bubble. A group of teenagers have today told me that MPs who voted for 24 weeks were ‘old fashioned’ and ‘past it’.
Some MPs aren’t simply trapped in the Westminster bubble, they are in some old fashioned post feminist time warp and just don’t get it. Thank goodness the teenagers do.
My weekend is going to be one of garden fetes,cream teas, the theatre (Lifecoach), supper tonight with a friend at The Birch in Woburn, writing an article and a thousand other casework chores and things to do. Lets hope for good weather. Cream teas really are the most awful part of my job.
Posted Thursday, 5 June 2008 at 11:34
I've just asked the Chancellor a question about the impending increase in VED.
When I asked the question, I used its old fashioned monica 'road tax' - VED sounds like a sexually transmitted disease.
I asked, "This morning all over Britain mums have just finished the school run.
Today they may pop into Tescos and have to put back onto the shelves treats they could have afforded for the kids just a few months ago.
Many, completely unaware that the road tax on the second hand family car parked in the car park is about to increase dramatically.
How much misery does the Chancellor want to heap upon the shoulders of the average British mum?"
Of course, I was jeered loudly all the way through by the other side - every single time I stand up to speak I am ambushed, regardless of the subject.
Labour don't like it if you try to talk about real people and how decisions taken by the Chancellor affect the day to day life of the average British family.
Angela Eagle MP, the Finance Minister was mad. Shock horror, splutter splutter, I had talked about people not policy.
Her answer was derisory to all mums everywhere, most of whom are too busy to know what's around the corner; many just getting through another day of making ends meet and wondering where the money is going to come from, to buy new school uniforms and shoes this Summer.
The very worst aspect of a government which has lost touch with the people is the pain it inflicts during its agonising last few years whilst it grinds itself into the ground.
Bring on fixed term parliaments.
Posted Wednesday, 4 June 2008 at 13:55
I'm becoming uncomfortable with the number of times I am appearing, or being quoted, in the Guardian and the Observer.
G2 profiled me a couple of weeks ago. They sent a reporter and a photographer, the photographer was nice.
The press on the other side don't exactly mis-quote me, but if I make a comment or an off hand remark to try and lighten up a heavy line of questioning, they will use that rather than my substantive point.
When I have given a couple of hours of my time for an interview, I find this ‘cheap’ journalism really tedious.
I'm in yesterday's G2 again, described as 'foetus cradling.'
Interesting how those who have no regard for human life describe a baby as a foetus.
When a pregnant mum has a 20 week scan she is asked if she would like to see her baby on the screen. She is given a print out of a picture of her baby to keep, like this one at 20 weeks.
No mum or couple are ever asked "would you like to see your foetus?" or "would you like a print out of your foetus to keep for the baby album?"
I suppose those over at the Guardian and I will never agree on this issue, however, there is one thing I do know that they may be interested in.
Many of the thousands of letters and emails we have received over the last month end with words like "disgusted Guardian reader" or similar.
The Guardian may take an editorial line on abortion; however, one has to question the wisdom of a newspaper which appears to insist on only playing the tune of the pro-abortion extremists, and ignoring the majority view point of the rest of society, who regard a baby at 20 weeks plus gestation as just that, a baby. Something to do with being informed by the photographs they see of babies in premature baby units at the same stage surviving and living well maybe?
Now, can we see G2 describe me as ‘baby cradling’ instead of foetus cradling? No, that’s never going to happen is it!
Posted Tuesday, 3 June 2008 at 12:04
I am really not that happy with the fact that every news outlet is splashing around the news that Prince William, second in line to the throne, will be sat on a boat in the Caribbean for a few months.
We are at war on a number of fronts, with terrorists having access to weaponry and technology equal to that of our allies.
Am I alone in thinking this level of openness may be a tad rash?
The Red Flag
Posted Monday, 2 June 2008 at 14:06
On my way into work on the train today, a constituent, on whose behalf I have begged, pleaded and slammed the phone down on numerous faceless officials, came and sat next to me.
In between elections I take the position of being everyone's MP very seriously. I have never, outside of an election, ever asked a constituent which way he or she votes.
After discussing the latest position on this particular gentleman's case he offered his thanks; and as if by way of payment announced that he was going to vote for me at the next election.
I quickly assured him that as a result of what we had achieved together, he should only vote for whichever party or candidate he wished to come election time, and that I was, as his elected representative of the moment, only doing my job.
He then went on to give me his opinion of politics in general. Of how he was actually and had always been a union member and a Labour voter.
“New Labour are so Conservative, I may as well vote Conservative” said he. I wanted to pick him up on this but thought better of it.
“Before, you always knew who and what Labour stood for, but you don’t anymore,” he said.
Over the past few weeks the calls of Labour MPs on the left have bemused me. I thought that the only remnant of fundamental left wing idealism remaining lived in the minds of the stalwart, and it has to be said, the very best of Labour MPs in the House of Commons; I had thought that as a political concept amongst the voters, it was long dead.
The left wing MPs are the radical thinkers, the principled, the rebels and certainly the most respected. Some I now count as my friends, Peter Kilfoyle, Andrew Mackinlay, Kelvin Hopkins and Frank Field to name but a few.
As my journey's companion continued to talk, I realised that, here, sitting in front of me, was a man representing a species I had thought was now extinct, a proper socialist.
A man who wistfully talked about a Labour Party he once campaigned for, even attended a party conference, and mourned the loss of.
A man who felt that there was no party left which represented his personal view.
I have begun to believe as a result of the continuous endorsement of the fact that we are a secular, or multicultural society , we are beginning to see a resurgence in religion and faith.
Tony Blair's Faith Foundation which he launched last week and the growing numbers of Evangelical Christians are just two of the many reasons for this view.
When people feel that something, particularly something important as a way of life, is seriously under threat they ‘gather round and support’.
As my constituent and I parted on the station I did wonder what would happen if Labour did turn to the left. If it returned to its fundamental principles would people such as my constituent welcome it back with open arms?
Would they flock to it, support it and gather round?
I think they may. I reckon there are probably many disenfranchised Labour supporters just like him.
To someone like me who loves my party, the idea of being 'politically homeless' is a horrible thought.
On Closer Inspection
Posted Sunday, 1 June 2008 at 16:51
You may remember the surreal interview I did with Marcus Brigstocke
It was for a Radio 4 programme, On Closer Inspection http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/oncloserinspection/pip/241zp/
Which is running for two weeks, tonight at 10.45pm and next Sunday.
Im not even sure if I made the final cut, however,
if nothing else it will be funny.
My guess is that Marcus may slightly moderate his views regarding politicians, but not enough to change his act!!