Saturday, 29 November 2008

A week is a long time…

I promised earlier on in the week that I would post more about the general public’s reaction to Pre-Budget Report, but in a way it almost feels unnecessary. There has been so much negative comment in the papers that it hardly seems worth reporting that almost everyone I have spoken to thinks it was all spin and no substance.

Those that work in shops were telling me that people are walking into their shops, looking around and then walking back out again – this reminds me of a report I saw on the BBC news of lots of people in a shopping centre but hardly anyone carrying bags. If people are worried about their jobs – which they genuinely are – then it is hardly a surprise that they are not making frivolous purchases.

The temporary VAT cut appears not to have fooled people into thinking they have more money in their pockets and most now know that it could go up as a high as 20%. I am not sure I have met one person who thinks they are going to be better off in the long term because everyone knows that with all the debt building up we are going to have to pay it off somehow and sometime soon.

And if the sceptical reaction to the PBR wasn’t enough, the arrest of my former boss Damian Green has caused total consternation – especially amongst those I was talking to in Snodland this afternoon. Damian received and revealed information that 5000 illegal immigrants were working in the UK…and promptly got arrested for it. Everyone I spoke to think that he was doing this country a service, not committing a crime and the running joke now is to say “ssh, they are listening…” every time someone talks about Damian. It is ridiculous but sadly not untypical of the Big Brother Government we currently have. The sooner the election is called, the better.

Snodland’s Christmas Lights

The team took a break from campaigning today which given the poor weather was probably a very good thing. So instead of knocking on doors I went down to Lenham Primary School to help my sister, who is on the PTA, set up the “messy room” and spoil my two nephews and niece whilst mummy wasn’t looking. And it was great!!! At one stage, and thankfully there is no photographic proof, I had 3 little ones painting my nails all different colours on a glitter covered table. I was trying not to enjoy myself but it is incredibly hard being a grouchy Crouchy when you are being asked to help make a peg angel with wet, badly varnished fingernails by some small child with a painted face, jumping up and down with the excitement of being able to use glue and glitter with impunity.

Anyway after having more fun than I let on, I headed off to Snodland to watch the Christmas lights get turned on. Despite the cold and drizzle, half the town turned out to watch the Mayor of Tonbridge & Malling arrive on Santa’s sleigh. Unfortunately in the process of getting to the sleigh the Mayoress slipped over and hurt herself. Thankfully the paramedics arrived quickly and were able to patch her up so that she could continue with the ceremonial duties. I managed to get a couple of shots of Santa before he headed back to Lapland – he was at Lenham Primary School too so he has clearly had a very busy day!

With so much early Christmas cheer it is no wonder I can’t get Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer out of my head…”then one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say…

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Andrew Rowe

I was very sad today to hear the news that Andrew Rowe, the former MP for parts of Chatham, passed away on Friday. I had the pleasure of meeting Andrew who served as the MP for Mid-Kent from 1983 to 1997. He had a keen interest in the voluntary sector and was a keen campaigner on both local and national issues.

My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.

Pre-Budget Report – a visual response!

More on what local people have said to me about the Chancellor’s statement later this week. So far, it has not been good! Put it this way…they have not been fooled.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Out in Ditton

This morning I joined County Council Candidate Peter Homewood and others for an enjoyable canvass in Ditton. I had canvassed the same area myself last year during the local elections so was pleased to hear about some of the improvements with anti-social behaviour thanks to the hard work of the local warden, the community officers and the council – but also the residents themselves who have come together to take responsibility for some of the issues in their specific streets.

Although pretty groggy from a heavy cold I was really interested in hearing what people on the doorsteps had to say about the national political scene. If you believe everything you read in the papers or watch on TV it appears that Gordon Brown is universally considered the world’s economic saviour. Well clearly the people of Ditton haven’t been asked what they think.

I spoke to a number of people who said that whatever happens they “won’t be voting Labour again” and another who said “you work hard, you try to bring up a family, and all you get is grief”.

Clearly the credit crunch is beginning to hit hard but most recognised that there is still worse to come. Let’s hope the Government is listening and that they use the forthcoming Pre-Budget Report to help hard hit families, like those in Ditton, through the tough times ahead.

Snodland Quiz

Last night I attended the annual Snodland Quiz which this year took place at the Methodist Church. I both love and loathe quizzes – which basically means I love it when I get the answers right but hate it when I don’t! Thankfully I was on a good team and my lack of knowledge about musicals or stars from the screen was more than made up for by my colleagues. We ended up coming a respectable 5th but the winning team were the same lot as last year…and the year before that (mental note – join their team next year!).

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Dinner with Nicholas Soames

Last night local Conservatives met for their annual dinner with this year’s guest speaker Nicholas Soames, MP for Mid-Sussex and of course Sir Winston Churchill’s grandson. We had a very enjoyable evening at the excellent Kits Coty restaurant, nestled into Blue Bell Hill with wonderful views over Aylesford and beyond, where we heard a fabulous speech from Nicholas which ranged from the current economic crisis to the wonderful work of the armed forces. I am delighted he came to visit not least because he was affectionately reminiscing about his childhood cricket lessons just down the road at Mote Park – it felt like he was enjoying being back in glorious Kent!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Walter’s War

I have just watched the most amazing programme on BBC4 called Walter’s War. It is about a young black man born in Folkestone who after playing for Tottenham Hotspur (during which, as my Spurs encyclopedia tells me, he scored 2 goals in 10 first class games) went on to become the first commissioned black officer in the Army to lead British troops in World War I. He died in the second battle of the Somme. I am ashamed that as someone who was educated in Folkestone and previously took a real interest in the history of the area, and of course as a committed Spurs fan with numerous books on the club, I had never heard of Walter Tull. I hope that someone with influence in Folkestone was watching and maybe generations to come will be less ignorant about Walter Tull and what he achieved.

If you missed it you can watch it on BBC iplayer HERE.

A day of remembrance

As I previously reported on this blog I helped the Poppy Appeal earlier this week and today I, along with hundreds of other local people, wore their poppy with pride in remembrance of those who lost their lives in World War I. I went to two very different services – one in Aylesford church this morning and one at the Royal British Legion Village this afternoon. Both were packed and far busier than last year which I think is down to it being so hard now, with so many young men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to think about those who have more recently lost their lives – something that the Poppy Appeal now reflects in its assistance programmes. I was talking to a lady whose son was stationed “somewhere in Afghanistan” who wanted to celebrate his service by remembering those who had died on duty. She found it comforting to be with people who understood what the call of duty meant and I found her courage and focus incredibly inspiring and I wish her well.

And as I sang the national anthem and watched the lowering of the union jack by a young army cadet I felt incredibly proud to be British and silently I thanked all those who had died to keep our country free. We shall never forget.

Monday, 3 November 2008

The Poppy Appeal

This afternoon, alongside local Councillors John Balcombe and Dave Smith, I joined volunteers outside Aylesford Sainsbury’s to help sell poppies before next week’s Remembrance Day. The Poppy Appeal is a hugely important campaign and each year the nation expresses it support for the work of the Royal British Legion through the appeal. Millions of poppies are sold every year and the poppy itself has become such an important symbol of reflection, remembrance and of course hope. Getting involved today made me really appreciate the support our armed forces of past and present have from ordinary members of the public – people were not just putting notes into the bucket but were commenting on what it meant to them. And what I found even more touching was how many children were coming up and putting money into the bucket in return for a poppy – and knowing what it meant: it was nice to hear a young child nagging their parents for a poppy rather than sweets!

It was always nice to be supporting such an important national charity which has a huge local presence. With the Royal British Legion Village and Royal British Legion Industries being based across the road from the Sainsbury’s, it genuinely felt like I was doing more for the cause today than just turning up at a service on Sunday. The Royal British Legion provides financial, emotional and social support to 10.5 million people in the UK and because of the continued underfunding from the Government the Poppy Appeal provides a significant proportion of the funds. I hope that my two hours selling poppies helped raise a little more for the vital service that the Royal British Legion continues to provide.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

A football high

What an amazing week of football. The Arsenal v Tottenham match on Wednesday was phenomenal but then to watch Spurs beat Liverpool last night made it a wonderful week for Harry’s Hotspurs. I spoke to a friend who had been at the game and he could hardly talk because he had lost his voice cheering, and then one of the older Meridian girls was telling me that she had been to the match with her Dad and that it was awesome.

But despite all the excitement at Tottenham during the week, I still thought today’s under 11s game was the best match I have seen all week. We won 11-nil but it was the passing and movement off the ball that made us all feel like the coaching sessions are beginning to work. I have never seen so many smiles on the faces of the players and parents alike (apart from one of the dads who always promises a tenner for a hatrick – and today there were two!!). Well done girls.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Shoebox Appeal

It is only November and I hate to use the C word so early on in the year, but today I did my small bit for the Christmas appeal being run by the The Church of Christ the King in Princes Park.

The annual shoebox appeal, organised by Blythswood Care, sends thousands of donated shoe boxes filled with gifts to people around the world who are less fortunate then ourselves. Since 1993, the scheme has delivered over 500,000 boxes to countries such as India, Romania and Albania.

I took two boxes along, one for a girl and one for a boy. It is amazing that a few small items like colouring pens, a teddy, a skipping rope and a packet of marbles – as well as some haribo – will bring such huge joy to someone somewhere. And I am told that often our shoe boxes are the only presents that a child might receive. Wrapping a shoebox is harder than you might think but the thought that on Christmas Day a boy and girl in a country far worse off than ours is opening up a few gifts from me makes it all worth it.