Tuesday, 27 February 2007

The Chief Whip

I went to the theatre tonight to see a hilarious new play with Richard Wilson and Robert Bathurst (from Cold Feet) about being a Whip. The Whips Office is pretty much anathema to most of us – which is described in the play like being “the personnel department of a business”. But the Whips are essential – they keep the business of Parliament flowing, they run the voting and speaking schedules of MPs, and ultimately they maintain loyalty in the ranks – and it is the latter that is the main theme of the play.
Now I know absolutely nothing about the theatre so I couldn’t tell you if this play was well directed, if the set was properly lit, if the actors mucked up the execution of their lines, but what I do know is that this play is hilarious. I was laughing out loud from the opening line.
Basically it is set just after a General Election with a Tory majority of 3. The Whips are desperately trying to prevent a rebellion and using every tactic possible. A new MP is given the full treatment from smarm through to thinking someone is being physically beaten in the next room; others are wined and dined; indiscretions, love poetry, bar bills become bargaining chips – and all whilst pledging allegiance to the cause. There are a few topical jokes included – which I won’t spoil for you – but be prepared for some pretty foul language!
I imagine the fear of the “dark arts” of the Whips is greater than the reality, but then again having worked for a former Whip maybe not…

Monday, 26 February 2007

Save Capstone Valley

This is the beautiful Capstone Valley near Chatham and unsurprisingly it is under threat from housebuilders.

Just over two years ago, local residents were successful in defeating Medway Magna’s plans to build 9,000 homes in the beautiful Capstone Country Park. I was obviously very disappointed therefore to learn that plans are being considered again so quickly, despite residents clearly expressing their opposition to this development.

Whilst I appreciate that there is great pressure to provide more housing in the South East, it is important that we preserve our Greenfield sites and concentrate on redevelopment of brownfield sites and other areas that desperately need regeneration.

The proposed development is with planning officials at the moment. I urge anyone wishing to express their opposition to the plans to write to me at Chatham & Aylesford Conservatives, 200 Canterbury Street, Gillingham, Kent ME7 5XG or email [email protected]

Sunday, 25 February 2007

A good day for Spurs

Tottenham winning 4-1 against Bolton, Newcastle losing at Wigan and the Gooners losing to Chelsea in the Carling Cup equals a happy day all round for the Whites.

I didn’t see the Spurs match this afternoon but I have read and heard reports saying that Dimitr Berbatov and Aaron Lennon were in fantastic form. It was a shame Robbie Keane (the fans’ favourite) was sent off, especially since he was on a hat-trick, but credit to the other 10 players who didn’t sit back and defend the lead – the usual Spurs response.

Martin Jol has come in for some stick recently but I just think this kind of result shows what a great manager he is.

Tickled by a chair

Sometimes the silliest of stories make me chuckle for ages – the one below from yesterday’s Times has left me giggling since I read it last night. It is the type of story that Paul Merton would have a field day with!

Office chair set on fire – news that made the world sit up . . .
The Times apologises to readers for failing to report an earth-shattering event in Cumbria last month. Some ne’er-do-well set fire to a chair. We were distracted by lesser events in Iraq and Afghanistan. But when the Westmorland Gazette, the Kendal-based local weekly, posted the story on its website the fate of a piece of office furniture reverberated around the world from New York to Australia. Better late than never, we hereby reproduce the report that drew a record number of comments to the website of an assiduous journal that keeps a hawk-like eye on its patch.

“An office chair was destroyed after it was set on fire on the grassy area off Maude Street, Kendal, this afternoon. Fire crews from Kendal attended along with police. A spokesman for the fire and rescue service said: ‘A delinquent set fire to an office chair in the middle of a grassy area and it was extinguished using one hose jet’.”

That’s it. Nothing else. No one hurt, no questions asked in Parliament, and no ministers’ heads on the block. George W. didn’t threaten to invade the Lake District. But one of the most insignificant events ever to be reported in the Gazette suddenly took wing.

First came the pity. “This really is scraping the barrel. You’ve got to feel sorry for the journalist who wrote it though. I suppose everybody’s got to start somewhere,” said the first response on the website. Disdain was rife. “I think it’s high time the Westmorland Gazette had something newsworthy to print: perhaps a drowned shopping trolley, or a discarded mint cake,” wrote another.

After the comments began to mount into the dozens and tongues became embedded in cheeks Andrew Daniels, the young reporter who happened upon the drama during the daily newsroom drudgery of calls to the local police, posted his own spirited reply. “It takes years of experience to generate so much interest in what at first seemed an innocuous story.”

Freed from the gravitational pull of pity, the story took off on a spaceflight to distant galaxies of imagination.
“The chair knew the risks. Gang warfare in Kendal is rife, and when you choose a side you gotta be down with risks. This was a declaration by the Standard Lamp Posse of Kendal. No one messes with lamps,” said a Lancaster respondent.

“If your Government continues to hold our agents of freedom illegally in detention camps, other chairs will meet the same fate as this one.” That from an Islamic-sounding respondent in Ireland. Several messages questioned the chair’s legal right to be in the country at all and suggested it needed a work permit. One respondent thought that the Gazettehad missed the real angle of the story: setting fire to an office chair was a contribution to global warming.

Staff at the Gazette are delighted that the dross of local news has provoked a global running joke. “This is not the most crime-ridden or busiest of areas, and it’s difficult to get much material from calls to the police and fire brigade,” Mike Glover, the editor and publisher, said. “We took the the attitude that local news sells local newspapers. People will have wondered what the fire brigade were doing.”

Every story needs a follow-up, and the burning issue prevails: what has happened to the chair’s charred remains?

Public outcry
“This story has upset me so much i don’t think i’m going to be able to sleep tonight — i work with office chairs very closely on a daily basis and they’ve always treated me well and to hear stories like this makes me sick to my stomach”, Ben Thomas, Dubai

“Another tale of moral decline from our already debauched society. Ergonomic disasters of this magnitude were last seen during the fall of Rome”, Adam Candle, Lancaster

“These chairs come here from foreign places and think they can take our bottoms”, Laurent Blanc

“The relatives of the chair are claiming it was “friendly fire” and are asking the US Air Force to release their cockpit video evidence”, Brian Newbold, Doncaster

“This type of atrocity has only been able to happen since the “Chair In The Community” legislation was passed in the late 1980s. Before that time chairs would have been cared for indoors, not forced to walk the streets”, Legislation Required, Westminster
“Was there a racial element to this unprovoked attack? Did this chair have the right to work in this country or was it an illegal immigrant? I think there needs to be some sort of investigation into the wider implications of this attack”, Whatever, Cheshire
“(To the tune of the Gilbert O’Sullivan song Claire) Chair. The moment I met you, I swear. I felt as if something, somewhere, had happened to me, which I couldn’t see. And then, the moment I met you, again. I knew in my heart that we were friends. It had to be so, it couldn’t be no”, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Hollywood

Saturday, 24 February 2007

Inconvenient moments…

On the whole, I really enjoy canvassing but there are moments of sheer embarrassment – and I had two of those today.

The first came half way through the morning when I knocked on a door and a man in his late 30s answered in just a t-shirt and boxer shorts, hiding his bottom half very badly behind his glass front door! I spluttered out “sorry to bother you…at such an inconvenient moment”…before composing myself, focusing very hard on his face and then carried on with the rest of the script. I was delighted when he said he was a Conservative but hope I didn’t offend him when I scuttled of pretty darn quick!

The second occurred when I knocked on a door only to discover the man I was about to talk to was the Lib Dem parish councillor – didn’t mention it on the cards but was pleased to meet him anyway. The parish councils tend to be much less political and very close to the community so had no worries telling him I am looking forward to coming to a meeting in the near future.

It was a good morning all in all. A nurse told me that in 19 years of her living in her house I was the first person to knock on her door – she is very impressed with David Cameron. Had a nice chat with a West Ham fan who was preparing for the grudge match between Pardew and Curbishly (bet he is not happy tonight). And I even nearly managed to get cakes from one person who opened the door covered in icing sugar!

Thursday, 22 February 2007

The first post

I have finally succumbed and started a blog. I felt that since every ward in my constituency, most of my friends, and several MPs have a blog (even my boss is considering one), maybe I should have one too!!

So here it is – welcome to my blog. A diary of my election campaign into Parliament, political musings and most probably regular disappointed rants at my football team’s performance.

Comments will always be welcome.