Thursday, 29 November 2007

Political Priorities

This morning I went to BBC Kent’s radio studio for a discussion on political prioritisation following the publication of my newsletter which notes that my opponent missed a vital debate in Parliament on Maidstone Hospital because he was undertaking his ministerial duties in Luxembourg. Incidentally if I was in his shoes I am not sure I would have afforded my opponent such free publicity, but hey I was grateful for the opportunity! The important point coming out from the discussion this morning is quite simply if you are a Minister then your constituents clearly take second place in Parliament. It is not the case as was claimed that Government Ministers cannot speak in the House – technically they can seek permission to speak from the backbenches on important constituency issues. Maybe he just didn’t think the crisis in our local healthcare was not important enough to use this power. When I am elected, I know what my priorities will be!

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Shaw seeks redemption

My opponent is apparently very upset tonight that in my latest newsletter, delivered free to 40,000 people and at no expense to the taxpayer, I point out that he missed a vital debate in Parliament on the problems at Maidstone Hospital in order to present the UK’s fishing priorities in Luxembourg. As a result he has challenged me to a live debate on BBC Radio Kent tomorrow morning. Tune in at 07.05am HERE and listen to him try and explain why fishing matters are more important than than the deaths of ninety people from C-Difficile whilst patients at the local hospital.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Weekly Conservative Newsletter

I feature in the latest Conservative e-newsletter, alongside news about our education plans and comment on the Government’s troubles. You can read it HERE.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Cartoon of the day!

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Frozen fingers, toes and nose

I went out with the team today in Larkfield to deliver our latest newsletter and nearly froze! I paired up with former postie Chris who kept reassuring me that I would “soon warm up” but it never quite happened and even now as I sit at home typing this my nose is still freezing cold. All the girly whinging aside, it was great to get out and about in the fresh air today, especially as it was followed by a steak pie at Wealden Hall! It was noticeably quiet in the streets I was delivering which can only mean one of two things – either everyone was huddled around their fires, or the Christmas shopping has begun in earnest! I had hoped to pop into one or two of the Christmas fares happening around the constituency today to pick up a few stocking fillers but sadly I ran out of time – I shall try and make one next weekend instead. In the meantime, I hope to be able to publish my newsletter online so that anyone who hasn’t received a copy can read it here…but I am just trying to work out how to do it first!

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Thousands of local families affected by catastrophic data breach

The news of the appalling breach of data protection at HMRC which has led to 25m people being exposed to potential identity fraud will have a massive impact on families across Chatham & Aylesford. The Chancellor was forced to admit that his Revenue & Customs Agency have lost in the post disks containing details of 25m child benefit claimants raising huge questions about the safety and security of personal information. The latest statistics show that in Medway nearly 34,000 families claim benefit for nearly 61,000 children, and in Tonbridge & Malling there are 15,000 families claiming benefit for over 26,000 children. That means tonight nearly 50,000 families across the region will be worryingly checking their bank accounts to make sure they have not been subject to fraud.

The Chairman of HMRC has rightly resigned but despite the Chancellor learning about this – the largest breach of data protection ever – 10 days ago, the public have only now been alerted to the problem and by all accounts as a result of the media finding out, rather than the Chancellor coming forward first.

This is a catastrophic failure but highlights why a database for ID cards, which will store an immense amount of information on each and everyone of us, cannot be trusted in the hands of Government.

A shocking failure on shoplifting

A report out today shows that Britain has topped the EU table for shoplifting with more than £1.5bn worth of goods being stolen per year. Sadly, I am not at all surprised. A few years ago, the Government decided to extend the fixed penalty notice system to include shoplifting as a way of fiddling the figures on crime but without any thought on whether a fixed penalty notice provided any sort of deterrent. Retailers at the time were opposed to the proposals but were simply ignored and now today’s figures confirm their doubts. One of the main reasons for a notice not preventing low level crime is that the payment rates are very low – only half get paid within the 21 days required and each unpaid one costs £91 to enforce.

Shoplifting is not a victimless crime – we all end up paying higher prices for our goods as a result of theft – and it is quite clear that the current system is not working. I am horrified by this report – and I hope that the Government feels embarrassed and ashamed when it sits in a room with their European colleagues. What we need is a proper system of justice which is working effectively on all levels of crime – something we certainly don’t have under this Government.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Local Labour Party wasting YOUR money

Despite there not being any such proposal votes were counted yesterday in a “referendum”, called by the Snodland Labour Party, on car parking charges. Since the good folk of Snodland are too sensible to be fooled by Labour scaremongering on 8% voted in the referendum. However since the poll cost Snodland Town Council £2,200 it means each vote cast cost the Council £5! What a horrendous waste of money. The Town Council already has limited funds and £2200 could be much better spent in my opinion on town facilities rather than wasted on a politically motivated campaign. We will remind them that it was they who wasted the money, not local Conservatives, if the pot runs out!

Sunday, 11 November 2007

A weekend of Remembrance

I have spent the whole of this weekend remembering our war heroes and those they have left behind. Yesterday I visited the Royal British Legion Village and met many residents who over coffee and cake were proudly telling me their war stories. I had a mini tour of one of the courts and was very impressed with the living accommodation, shown to me by Squadron Leader Des Butters (pictured) who I think was equally impressed by my ability to identify his model airplane as a Lancaster Bomber – one of the finest aircraft of all time in my opinion. I was delighted to meet two gentlemen who had served in the (former) Rhodesian Army who live in a part of the village dedicated to them, but was perplexed that to hear that they cannot march down Whitehall as an individual unit but have a separate service instead. I thought after the Gurkhas were recognised that this issue had been rectified? I shall find out. I also met a number of ladies who had served during the war as Wrens who were telling me wonderfully naughty stories about being dispatch riders etc.

This morning I went to St Peter’s and St Paul’s Church in Aylesford and was treated to a congregation made up of many children in scouting uniforms. The vicar was wonderful and encouraged them to participate in the service, asking them questions etc – which had many of us giggling at their sweetly innocent answers. The sun was shining through the autumn leaves on the trees making the two minute silence both beautiful and moving. Then this afternoon I headed back to the British Legion Village for another service but this time alongside the many former service personnel dressed in uniform with the polished medals proudly adorning their breast pocket. I think one of the most touching sights this afternoon was watching the contrast of elderly gentlemen lay wreathes in memory of those colleagues who lost their lives, followed by two young army cadets marching in time, and with their whole lives before them, laying their own mark of respect. I felt honoured to be in the company of all those who served in our armed forces defending the country – may their time, and the sacrifice of those who did not return, never be forgotten.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Nine year old drug addicts

Richard Spring MP has posted the most shocking story on his blog on the number of children being treated for cannabis misuse. In response to a parliamentary question he has discovered that 9,150 children (up from 7, 571 last year) between the ages of 9 and 15 are being treated for drugs misuse – 56% of these are being treated for specific cannabis problems. My eldest nephew is 9 and loves nothing more than playing with his Transformers, building lego cars, or kicking a football. I simply cannot imagine a nine year old rolling, never mind smoking, a joint. Richard is quite right to say that the decision made by the Government to downgrade cannabis to class C was a big mistake. It has given the impression that cannabis is a lot safer than it actually is and sends out a dangerous message to our children. It is time to reverse this stupid policy – and hopefully then we will see a fall in these shocking statistics.

Frank knows the score…

The papers and blogs have all got excited at the news that England (and Chelsea) hero Frank Lampard has confessed he is a Tory. It is quite unusual – although not unheard of – for footballers to be so open with their political opinions but in a way I feel less surprised than some when they do. Football, like politics, is very tribal – you support your team when they up, and when they are down and as a supporter of both the Conservative Party and Spurs it has been a heartbreaking at times! I am glad Frank has come out as a supporter – it is nice to know that premiership footballers do think about more than just football, being a celebrity, or fancy clothes. There is an excellent article on football and politics HERE and well worth a read.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Holmesdale Technology College

This morning I had a tour of Holmesdale Technology College and I was very impressed. The school has tried to place itself at the heart of the local community so as you walk into the reception, and after you’ve got over the sheer “wow” factor of the huge airy atrium, the first thing you notice is a coffee shop open to everyone in and outside the school.

The School, built under the PFI, is a specialist Technology college and the ICT suites were incredible – long gone are the days where students crowded around a single giant computer with a flickering green screen to learn about QWERTY and RAM. This school is all wified up and every student has their own specially configured laptop enabling e-learning at the highest level. But it is more than just the technology that impressed me.

The infrastructure is amazing and OK it is a new school and everything, but the architectural design and general maintenance of the building is enough to make any pupil want to come to school and stay and learn. Even though my school days are long behind me, just walking around this morning was enough to make me want to join a class – although I would have been hard pressed to decide which one to join!

Saturday, 3 November 2007

98% say YES to Save Capstone Valley

At the end of September, I launched a consultative referendum on Medway Magna’s plans to build 9,200 houses in Capstone Valley. Throughout October people have been returning ballot papers, delivered and paid for by Chatham & Aylesford Conservatives, and today the “Count” on the Referendum took place at Lordswood Leisure Centre.

We had an excellent response to the campaign which has significantly raised the profile of the threat to Capstone Valley. A number of people have contacted me direct, stopped me in the streets or spoken to local councillors to voice their concern and offer their support for our campaign. It is quite clear that whilst people understand that there is housing stress in the area, building on one of the last remaining green spaces in Medway is a dreadful idea which will see a real impact on local services, and increase in traffic and a major blow to the environment.

We had 3238 ballot papers returned to various drop off points around Chatham and the results were as follows:

YES 3176
NO 21
TOTAL 3238
So Medway Magna should take note. Local people will not sit back quietly and let Europe’s largest housing estate be built in the beautiful Capstone Valley.

Friday, 2 November 2007

And lifting the CIS Cup is…

I was in Edinburgh yesterday for various meetings with MSPs, officials and Ministers and happened to pop outside to make a few phone calls and stumbled upon the draw being made for the CIS Cup Semi-Finals. Whilst I wasn’t allowed to pick it up and pretend I’d just won the cup I was allowed to sit next to it though…