Saturday, 22 May 2010

Supporting the Ditton Youth Project

On Thursday evening I attended a meeting with members of the Ditton youth project and the adult Committee to support them in their attempt to convert the Ceder Rooms at Ditton Community Centre into a venue for a regular Youth Club. Aylesford Councillor Dave Smith attended the meeting with me bringing with him some advice for the Committee having gone through the same process with Aylesford’s very successful Youth Club.

The project plan is sound and exciting, will provide all youth organisations in the area with excellent accommodation and the youngsters are working hard as a team to put together funding bids. I am very much on board and will be supporting them every step of the way.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

A very proud manager

I am this afternoon one very proud football manager. At Cobdown Park, Ditton, Meridian Girls U12s won the Tina Marshall Cup Final in extra time, having been 2 nil down to Gravesham Girls after just 10 minutes. Instead of giving up, they fought hard for every ball and went into half time only 2-1 down having clawed back a goal.

What followed was a very exciting second half which saw us equalise twice, forcing extra time after the game finished 3-3. There were 7 minutes each way and penalties would follow if it was still a draw. Meridian’s Under 10s earlier won their Final on penalties and I didn’t fancy trying to pick 5 girls to take spot kicks (although I had in my mind anyway). Thankfully we didn’t need to go down that route after we scored another goal in each half and the game ended 5-3 to Meridian.

Gravesham played very well and have always been one of the nicest teams to play against; as a club they share our own club’s values of you play cleanly and fairly and accept the outcome graciously. All girls shook hands and it was acknowledged in the presentation to have been the best game of the day so far.

After a poor first 10 minutes, Meridian Girls played well and never gave up fighting. It is for that reason that I am most proud of them, not that they won a shiny trophy. They worked hard for their medals and as they left being spoilt rotten with sweets and ice cream by overjoyed parents, I am sure they will still be smiling for some time yet.

An extraordinary first week

It has been an extraordinary first week in the job.

On Monday I headed up to London to resign from Aviva. It was sad to leave a company I joined the day after the 2005 General Election and I have learned a lot working across all parts of the business. I am in no doubt my experience in the City and for a major plc will help me as I navigate my way through my new role. As I left the City to get on the tube to Westminster it was still unclear what was going to happen politically and it was difficult to give my curious now-ex colleagues much of a steer. When I arrived in Westminster I met up with Andy Percy, the MP for Brigg & Goole, and Gary Johnson, the MP for Dartford. We ended up doing our induction together which started in one room with the collection of passes, the allocation of a locker and ended up full circular with laptops and blackberries. Part of the induction included a tour and as we were taken into the chamber our blackberries started buzzing and it was then that we realised something significant was happening on the outside; Gordon Brown had announced he was going to step down as Labour Leader so that coalition talks between the Liberals and Labour could begin. The tour ended in the Members Tea Room where our guide left us in the safe hands of colleagues before our first ever 1922 Committee meeting. Journalists were gathering outside the Committee room with Whips guarding the door letting folks in. Walking into that oak panelled room for the first time was amazing. The sun was streaming through the windows from the Thames and the buzz in the room was phenomenal. The Chief Whip and the Leader of the Conservative Party entered and everyone cheered. I was at the back so had to stand on a bench to see and it was clear that even David Cameron was overwhelmed by the sight of 300+ Conservative MPs standing in front of him. After 30 minutes or so we filed out and that was that. What was needed to be said was said, the meeting was done, and it was time to go home.

Tuesday was supposed to be a full day of induction. There was a schedule set out in advance which given what was happening outside was probably never going to survive. But it was well planned and a 150 new Tory MPs sat and listened whilst we were given advice on employing staff, casework, legislative procedures etc. This is all new and the authorities and the party managers should be congratulated for setting it up. Previous new MPs have arrived and made to sink or swim. With such a large intake from this election it was never going to be possible to leave everyone to get on with it so we sat and listened intently. David Cameron popped by to say hello and as he walked in to the room he congratulated me on my win in Chatham & Aylesford – little did I know that the next time I would see him, he would be Prime Minister! And so the day continued until it became clear again that something was happening; without an office most of us were relying on others or Twitter to keep us updated and it was from there that we learned that Gordon Brown was going to see the Queen. Some of us found an office to watch the TV in and that is where we stayed until David Cameron stood on the steps of Downing Street with Samatha and made his speech. Two or so hours later he was standing in front of the 1922 Committee receiving a standing ovation from the Parliamentary Conservative Party. The Prime Minister outlined the “deal”, received another warm ovation and he (and we) headed off home at gone 10.30pm.
(taken by John Glen MP)

The Wednesday induction started with a cross-party session in the Chamber. Following the events of the night before there was much excitement as Conservative and Lib Dem MPs took their places on the Government side of the Chamber. Those who came in late were being sent to the Opposition benches because it was the only place there was any space left! We had some excellent advice and information from the Clerks, the Serjeant at Arms, and the then Leaders of the House from the 3 main parties. The number of times I have seen others squished up on those green benches watching them make speeches or ask questions, it was fabulous to take my seat and look at the empty Speakers Chair knowing that in a few weeks time I will be on my feet doing the same. After the session we had a 2010 intake photograph which was in itself rather special – there are so many people – before heading back to our own party inductions. I managed to leave around 4pm and made it back in time for pre-Cup Final football coaching. The rest of the week has been spent on constituency work, thank you letters, and setting up my surgeries.

I know every week is not going to be like last week but with the Speaker’s Election and swearing in happening this coming week, and the Queen’s Speech taking place the following week it might at least take a little while longer before things settle down!

Friday, 14 May 2010

My first constituency engagement

After a week in Parliament, I attended my first engagement in the Constituency yesterday and I was pleased to support the official launch of the new art installation at Snodland train station. The art had been done by local students from Holmesdale College and installed by Southeastern and the Medway Valley Line Partnership. The artists were congratulated by the many people who attended the launch and rightly so – their work cheers up the station and I am sure will be well appreciated by local rail users.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Photos from the thank you party

At lunch time today I hosted a thank you party for those who helped during the Election campaign. The date was set before we knew the result and would have happened regardless of the outcome but it was great that it turned into a celebration and spirits were high! There were many people who were unable to make today due to prior commitments but they were thanked in absentia. Tomorrow I head up to London to resign from my job and then on to Parliament…

(am in there somewhere)

(my nephew was very impressed with the cake)

(and my mum joined in the fun too)

Friday, 7 May 2010

Thank YOU!

Thank you to everyone who came out and voted for change in Chatham & Aylesford yesterday and to the hundreds of people who have sent me text messages, emails and pub notice boards (as pictured above) congratulating me on the result. I am proud to have been elected your MP. The hard work begins now and I very much look forward to getting on with the job I have been elected to do.

In my victory speech in the early hours of this morning, I thanked the other candidates for their clean campaigns. With public confidence in politicians at such a low, the lack of personal insult or rancour has been an important contribution to restoring the electorate’s faith in politics and I shall endeavour to continue that process by being an open, honest and transparent MP.

After further media engagements today, official public engagements begin tomorrow and I am expected at the Palace of Westminster on Tuesday. It is a real honour to be given a mandate to serve local residents and I will not let you down.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Restore Rochester Castle

I have been contacted by a local group who are dedicated to the restoration and preservation of Rochester Castle, asking me to support their cause. I had no hesitation in doing so. Rochester Castle is of huge historic importance and a wonderful local attraction and I was very happy to sign the pledge on the website and have promised to help publicise their campaign. I hope all those who read this locally, who keep blogs and use social media, will join me in raising awareness of this campaign.

You can sign the pledge or join their facebook campaign HERE.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

The last canvass

(the morning team!)

Today we held our last canvass sessions before the General Election and we had massive teams out across the constituency. We met this morning at the Ditton Community Centre and headed off in teams to canvass in Aylesford, Ditton and Larkfield and this afternoon we had another huge team to canvass in Princes Park, Walderslade and Lordswood. The response on the doorstep was excellent and the team regrouped this afternoon for tea and cake in a buoyant mood.
Over the course of the election campaign I have met and spoken to hundreds of people who have raised a plethora of issues. Without doubt uncontrolled immigration is the most unprompted issue raised on the doorstep followed by the economy, jobs, the benefits system and abuse of MPs expenses. But I have also had raised with me issues relating to the local hospitals, tuition fees, abortion, the threat to Christianity, election debates, women MPs, taxes, Europe and pensions to name but a few! I have always enjoyed being on the doorstep but the last four weeks have been brilliant; it has been a joy to meet, listen and speak to so many people during our 3 canvass sessions per day and I hope that it will make a difference.
The next few days are dedicated to meetings with various organisations and residents, correspondence and constituency-wide delivery. Thank you to all those who have helped and are helping over the next few days, and to all those I have met and have been so hospitable on the doorstep.