April 2009

Wed, 29 Apr
Today, nearly 200 children from six schools across South Dorset descended on my farm. The sun shone and the youngsters had the time of their lives. Following a two-mile route, each group attended six stands, including farming, bee keeping and deer management. This was the fifth and most ambitious visit we'd planned. The shadow minister for agriculture Jim Paice MP also attended, coming down from London by train. At 11.30am he met about 40 farmers from across the county, briefing them on news from London and taking questions for over an hour.
Jim knows his brief, having been in post for four years, and this clearly reassured the farmers who, dare I say, are a sceptical bunch at the best of times! Jim just had time to see one or two stands and talk to a few children before he was called back to the Commons for the vote on the Gurkhas. As we all know now, the Government was defeated, and rightly so. Meanwhile, I joined some children from Bovington First School at the bee keeping stand and soon became enthralled by what was being said. Nature is a truly fascinating subject and such an important one. We ignore it at our peril.
By about 2.30pm most of the schools were packing up and heading home. Judging from the feedback from teachers and the children, the day had been an outstanding success. We shall hold another one, of course, as I am passionate about helping youngsters understand what goes on under their noses. 

Tue, 28 Apr
Popped over to Portland this afternoon. I always enjoy a trip to the island, with its rugged cliffs and natural beauty. I had plans to meet a landlady and was soon enjoying a good banter with her over the bar. She's quite a character, knows her mind and is passionate about pubs and their future. She, like me, thinks another penny on a pint was yet another example of how out of touch this Government is. Why should the brewing industry be raided every Budget when the consequences of this raid are so serious on the business. Baffles me.
Then, on to a meeting of our Portland branch. We have a new chairman, who was full of enthusiasm and energy. I am sure he will galvanize our supporters on the island and keep the blue flag flying.

Mon, 27 Apr
The euphoria was still very much evident this morning as I climbed out of bed at 6.30am and back into the real world. There were a few aches and pains, but otherwise I was feeling fine. The discomfort of those last few miles yesterday seemed light years ago, although I did allow myself a small, self-congratulatory smile as I recalled staggering across the finish line on 4 hours 49 minutes.
Would I do it again? Maybe. It's certainly a good way of raising funds for excellent causes. The number of T-shirts on the day with words along the lines of, 'This is for my Dad', and the like, was rather poignant. 

Sun, 26 Apr - Marathon Day
I rose early - 6.30am - stretched, shaved, climbed into my running kit and caught the tube to Charing Cross. There I met several thousand other runners, all squeezing on to the same train to Black Heath. The carnival atmosphere was slightly muted by the fact us mere mortals were trying to get our heads around the fact we were about to attempt to run more than 26 miles around London. Anyway, once out of the train and into the early morning sun, you could almost sense the surge of anticipation as we mended our way up to the start.
I had an appointment with one of my two charities Starlight at 8.30am. They wanted a team photograph and I needed to pick up my marathon pack, which included a chip to record my individual time. I think there were 15 of us who I hardly had time to really meet before the photograph was taken and we headed to the rallying point. The sights and sounds had to be seen to be believed. Runner of all ages, supporting a mass of different charities, milled around to the sound of music, blasting out from several banks of speakers. Television cameras picked out the fancy dress and the just plain odd!
It seemed that everyone was stretching, touching toes, applying grease and preparing themselves for the challenge ahead.
At 9am the professionals were unleashed and I heard later that the winning runner broke the world record, coming in at about 2 hours 5 minutes. Remarkable. At 9.30am I entered my starting enclosure, feeling more and more like a horse at the start of the Grand National. At 9.45 a huge cheer went up, signalling the start of our Red group. Because there were so many runners, it took me about six minutes to actually cross the start line, and then I was off.
With so many runners, it was impossible not to bump into people all round you. In fact, you had to concentrate quite hard not to trip the person up in front of you. But, after a while, everyone spread out a bit and we all began to find our rhythm. There was a wonderful atmosphere. The route was lined the whole way with cheering crowds. Every so often there was a band of one description, or another, and the music was just the tonic. Children held out sweets, chocolates, oranges and drinks. They were tempting, but I managed to resist, keeping to a strict intake of water every so often.
I completed the first 13 miles in 1 hour 59 minutes. Privately, I was rather chuffed with this performance, although I realised that my estimated time of 4 hours was a little inaccurate. And so it proved as the going began to get tougher and tougher.
At 18 miles my groin began to ache. It wasn't agony, but it slowed me down considerably. But, with a quick mental telling-off, I reached into my reserves, put my head down and kept going. Around me other runners were quite obviously beginning to struggle. Some were falling out at this point and were being tended by medics who, as always, were doing a great job.
I have to be honest with you and say the last few miles were not easy. But everyone was running for wonderful causes and this kept us all going, along with the cheering crowds, of course.
Approaching Parliament Square, I knew I was nearly there. I was conscious of a large protest, cordoned off by the police, but was too tired to really take much notice. Passing Wellington Barracks brought back a flood of memories. I was based there with the Coldstream Guards when we were carrying out Public Duties. And, then, round the Birthday Cake in front of Buckingham Palace, to see the finish about 300 yards ahead. Crossing the line is not only a relief but rather emotional, too. You feel you've done your bit and all those kind donors have got their money's worth.
The moment you stop you begin to seize up and it wasn't long before I began to resemble an old man! Fortunately, my lovely other half was there to pick up the pieces and we staggered back to the car and home for a wonderful hot bath. My time: 4 hours 49 minutes. Not too bad. I hear Jordan came in on about 7 hours, so at least I beat her! There's no doubt the marathon is a very special event and according to those who run these things regularly regarded as the favourite. I can see why. Those 35,000 runners must have raised a small fortune for thousands of good causes. Personally, I raised about £8,000 for my two charities and money's still coming in.
A tip for anyone who wants to have a go next year; book now!

Sat, 25 Apr
Marathon day tomorrow, but first a quick trip to Weymouth to attend a coffee morning with some of our supporters. Several of our borough councillors and county council candidates were there, too, and we have a fun get together at our host's B&B.
I left at about 2pm and then headed to London for the big one tomorrow!

Fri, 24 Apr
Today, I was introduced to an interesting businessman, who is going to support our campaign. He's looking for a courageous and strong Conservative Party to lead the nation out of this current mess. I reassured him that with David Cameron at our head that's what he will get. I believe we do need to lead now and the nation is desperate for it. What's more I believe people will respond if we have conviction and common sense. It will take time to put things right, but this can be achieved.

Thu, 23 Apr
It was back to Weymouth today and a little canvassing with my friend and colleague Olive. She really is marvellous. Again, we found a lot of anger out there. People are not fools and the calls for an election grow ever louder.
In the evening, I attended our supper club. Our guest speaker was a retired brigadier from the Royal Logistic Corps. Now a successful businessman, Jeff Little enthused us all with a wide-ranging address, from Bosnia to Afghanistan. The talk reminded us all we must never forget our armed services or what they are doing so bravely in our name.

Wed, 22 Apr
What a glorious week it's been. But all that spring sunshine turned to grey clouds and thunderstorms the minute Alistair Darling rose to his feet to present the Budget. We knew it was bad, but only Labour could resort to class warfare at a time the nation is on her knees economically.
Pushing his hand into his magic bag, Darling producing a lump of rotting meat in the shape of a new 50 per cent top rate of income tax which he threw to his growling backbenchers. However, the plight of this country is so dire - even to the most hardened Socialist - that few had the stomach to gobble it down. Instead, they and the rest of the country, listened to the return of 'bust' which, if you recall, the Prime Minister had allegedly seen off forever some time ago.
Labour's done it again, as I knew they would, but this time they can't even see it. Their blind arrogance is simply staggering. Lord knows how all this debt will be paid back. One thing's for certain, Mr Brown is certainly not going to take the axe to the bloated public sector which he's created. Oh, no, that's his monster and creators do not like to turn on their creation. Someone's going to have to, though. It's a truly sad day for this beloved country of ours.

Sat, 18 Apr
Today was action day to help savers and pensioners. Across the country, Conservatives like me went out on to the streets to draw attention to the plight of these two groups of people. We are calling on Mr Brown to (a) abolish income tax on savings for basic rate taxpayers and (b) to raise the pensioners' personal allowance by £2,000 to £11,490.
I spent some hours in the square outside Debenhams handing out our petition forms, accompanied by Cllr Tim Munro and county council candidate Andy Cooke. For an hour or so beforehand, I'd covered the area around B&Q with the lovely Olive Carroll, without whom there wouldn't be a Conservative Party!
Most of those I approached were only too willing to help and in time a petition from around the nation can be delivered to Mr Brown. People are so angry with him and Labour, and they have every right to be. They've betrayed our great country and I am quietly confident the people of this country and this constituency will tell them that at the next general election.

Thu, 16 Apr
The firefighters at Weymouth Fire Station made me feel most welcome. I was met by Phil Head, the group manager, before watching a brief demonstration kindly put on for me by watch manager John Claxton and his team. As always, they manoeuvred the heavy equipment with great dexterity and professionalism, making it look all too easy. The profession never ceases to impress me and I met many hundreds of firefighters during my 17 year journalistic career.
After the demonstration Phil showed me around the station, which is now showing signs of wear and tear. Of course the move to a new community-based station and the accompanying changes have been controversial and some ill-feeling was evident.
However, I know their professionalism will overcome any personal animosity they feel, because that's the sort of men and women firefighters are. And, later, over a cup of tea, I much enjoyed chatting to them all. That wonderful humour and camaraderie, which in so many ways characterizes these professions, bubbled through and I knew the people of Weymouth and Portland were in capable hands.
Later, in the evening, it was time to attend a large fundraiser at Encombe House,  the most beautiful home of the McVeighs. Sliding through those green Purbeck hills down to the sea never ceases to inspire me. It is so stunning. The event was well attended, as you'd expect at a venue like this. Again, morale was high. The McBride email affair was well publicized and there was genuine disgust at Labour's dirty tactics, which everyone thought went to the heart of Government. They are the actions of a dying and increasingly desperate party which, seeing the writing on the wall, will go to any lengths to stay in power. Stand by for more of this type of thing as the election looms ever closer.

Wed, 15 Apr
I and my council colleagues David Crowhurst and Teresa Seall attended a coffee morning in Osmington, a pretty village. Our host was a lovely lady, who'd just moved in following some renovation work on the house. It was a stunning morning and David and I were soon deep in discussion with other guests, all boosted by Labour's failings, which become more and more apparent every day.

Tue, 14 Apr
There is never a dull moment meeting the good people of this constituency. And so it proved today in Weymouth. This gentleman was a Labour supporter of long standing. He was painting his fence which I recall him explaining he'd last done some eight years previously.
He was an extremely charming man and it wasn't long before political differences had been put aside and we were engaged in a friendly banter on a lovely spring afternoon. Whether he joins the fold, or not, I shall take great pleasure representing this man, as well as any other, should I get my job come the election. I left him, back in his shed, painting vigorously. In the evening, I drove over to Portland to help a prospective constituent. I won't identify the area, as that would reveal the nature of her concern, which I am dealing with privately. But both this good lady and others living nearby have been trying to deal with a long-standing and difficult problem for literally years. I hope to be able to help. I can try, at least.

Mon, 13 Apr
Are you like me in that you find immense pleasure from a work-free Monday. There's that feeling that you should be working, but you are not. However, my dreams of idleness were cast to one side as I climbed into my running kit for another Marathon training run.
Two weeks to go before the big day. The last time I dragged my aching body round the London course I was half my current age. I'm trying to forget the screaming muscles and sore joints, which make themselves evident from about the 17-mile point; or the 'wall', as it's termed by the professionals. Anyway, a new week lies ahead, with all the many challenges it will inevitably offer. I hope all of you have had a good Easter break with your families, loved ones and friends.

Sat, 11 Apr
I popped back to Weymouth this morning to visit the Conservative Club. It was pretty packed and as always I found myself engrossed in conversation with several people, on subjects ranging from politics to pets. Just before lunch was served, I was asked to make the various draws. But instead of reaching inside a cylinder, grabbing for a number and then announcing it to one and all, I was given a finger-shaped handle, with a red button on top. Feeling like the US President, I pressed down lightly and an electrical window on the chair beside me sprang to life, before stopping on a number. What an ingenious machine, and no paper! The Club has a wonderful atmosphere, with a great sense of camaraderie and fun.

Fri, 10 Apr
Good Friday and I'd forgotten this when making an appointment to visit a businessman on Portland some weeks beforehand. So had he! Anyway, after checking he was happy for me to disturb his holiday - and he was - I sped down to the island, which was sitting under overcast skies. I passed several small crowds of people being led by someone carrying a cross.
It was a poignant reminder that today was the day the Romans nailed Jesus to the cross, to die the most horrific death imaginable, and all for us. Whether you believe or not, the story of Jesus is a remarkable one, and there's no doubt in my mind that our survival as a Nation depends very largely on maintaining our Christian faith.
And I'm not talking about going to church regularly, or praying every night; I'm talking about kindness, honesty, integrity, courage, selflessness and awareness of others. I believe these are all Christian virtues which large parts of our country have lost - not forever, necessarily - and the sooner we regain them the better for all of us. Putting Easter aside for a minute, I spent a very happy and informative few hours with this local businessman. There wasn't much we didn't talk about and I found myself respecting this man more and more. He talked common sense, loved his family more than life itself and had worked his way up from the bottom to achieve all that he has. You admire men like this and learn from them.
As I drove home, much of our conversation buzzed about in my head. Sometimes you meet people, I find, and they stay with you in the nicest way possible. Their experiences enrich your life and put a smile on your face.
So it was as I headed home on Good Friday.

Thu, 9 Apr
A sad day today. One of my old farm hands has died prematurely from a debilitating illness, which slowly destroyed him. He'd worked here for some 28 years and I hold many fond memories of him, not least when he fell into our fish pond at a party to celebrate my 21st!
His wife is the most special lady and bore the terrible stress of the day with fortitude and great dignity. The service at the crematorium was packed, a fitting tribute to the man, who was held in high regard by us all. Afterwards, we all packed into a local pub for the wake, where there were more tears and laughter. The day reminded me just how close a farming community is. The secret to success in this challenging business is teamwork. Everyone pulls together, taking on the might and wonders of Mother Nature and the sensitivities of the market. Both are unreliable at best.

Wed, 8 Apr
My children have gone to their mother for the second half of the holidays and it's back into the fray for me. I'd had a recent call for help about the Weymouth relief road so, taking the picturesque A352, I drove down to our lovely seaside town, gulping in the clear spring air.
The sun was shining - always a pleasurable companion - and with little traffic it wasn't long before I was parking at the Littlemoor shopping complex where I was to meet my prospective constituent. Having described himself on the phone, this gentleman was easy to recognise and it wasn't long before we were deep in conversation about his various concerns. He was a charming, intelligent man, with an equally charming partner, who lived only yards from all the works.
Their main beef was not that the road was being built - they've lost that battle - but that in their view the construction team was not showing them sufficient respect. The couple felt this was their home, their backyard, and they wanted to feel that the road builders were at least taking their concerns seriously. I told the couple I would do what I could and immediately visited the site headquarters. There I met one of the project managers, who could not have been more polite. He knew this couple and reassured me they would do all they could to lessen any disturbance, but that they did have a road to build, on time and to budget, which was not a noiseless affair.
I think we all appreciate that, but it's just that little bit of thought which makes all the difference to those living in the vicinity of all that dirt, noise and disturbance. Let's face it, manners cost nothing.

Sat, 4 Apr
We landed at Stansted at about 7pm. The sun was beginning to set and it felt good to be home. A few days away with my children was clearly just the tonic. Then, as we drove home, I stupidly turned on the news and, after listening for a few minutes, realised I was back in a nation not at ease itself at all.
More scandals in Parliament as one MP after another tucks into all the benefits and perks at the House of Common's trough. Gordon Brown has finally convinced himself that he's saved the world, following the G20 meeting, where he persuaded the world's leaders to spend even more money. And, if that was not enough, the road verges were knee-deep in litter, casually discarded by motorists who clearly don't give a damn about the country they live in, or themselves.
There has never been a time, certainly in my lifetime, where true leadership was needed. Our country stands on the edge of an abyss. I believe it's that bad. The sad thing is that Labour and its cohorts have never cared, either for the country or the working man. We are fighting a just and honourable cause: to kick this government out and put the UK back on her feet once again.