August 2011

Fri, 19 Aug

Received a whole mass of correspondence from my office in London, which I waded through.

Interestingly, I discovered the office is dealing with c500 letters/emails/phone calls a week. One of my secretaries has 3,000 letters on her computer and that's just for one year. 

An MP's work is full on and interesting and it's so satisfying when you can actually help a constituent in need.

I wrote to several Dorset police officers, who led PSUs to Bristol and London to support their colleagues during the riots. We owe them a huge amount. 

Have also organised to go out with the RNLI lifeboats in both Swanage and Weymouth on one of their training evenings, which I am much looking forward to. 

Thu, 18 Aug

 

What rain!  Poor old Bournemouth.

Spent the day dealing with a number of issues. One was supporting the good people of East Stoke who are fighting to keep their railway crossing. 

Network Rail wants to close it, presumably to save money. I am backing locals' campaign and have written to the local authority which is due to discuss this next month.

School transport also came across my desk.

Some parents in Swanage concerned there are no places on school buses for children aged over 16.

After checking this out, I am relieved to say that the county council has made a concessionary deal with the bus company and No 143 will take sixth formers to Purbeck School for a daily fee of £2.10.

Relief there.

Interestingly, a deeply offensive and personal attack on me was made by a constituent in the letters' page of the local paper.

The facts are wrong and we've since discovered that the letter was politically motivated, as letters of this kind often are. 

Was due to visit one of my oldest mates recovering from a cancer operation, but he's had to return to hospital in London, so could not. The good news is that he is recovering and the visit was only for something minor. Thank God.

A late run in the evening and then home to the wife for a catch up.

Wed, 17 Aug

 

This morning I had the delightful task of visiting a mental health charity in Bournemouth, the Cherry Tree Nursery.

Based off a roundabout near the airport, this wonderful service was started 21 years ago.

I first came across it about 10 years ago when I was working for the BBC. I was sent there to file a report and was instantly taken by the place, the clients and the wonderful manager, Jess Davies, who is the most remarkable lady. It is her energy, determination and sheer bloody-mindedness which has seen this project flourish.

And today I was visiting to see the new building which is in the process of being erected. Made from local products, and constructed out of wood, this is a huge step for the charity, which has for years operated out of temporary buildings.

Jess and her team now look after more than 100 clients, all with mental health problems of one kind or another.

The nursery is a place where they find peace and time to restore their self esteem. Plants are sold wholesale and I can tell you the nursery is well worth a visit.

I then drove down to Swanage for one of my regular surgeries, before heading home and my in-tray! 

Tue, 16 Aug

 

Up at sparrows and, after a morning run, was behind my desk at 0830.

Shortly afterwards, I was on my way to Swanage, to spend the morning in the surgery there at the kind invitation of Dr David Haines.

The aim was to get a first-hand glimpse of what goes on in a surgery on a daily basis and this to a certain extent was achieved.

I met some of Dr Haines' patients, the administrative staff and nurses. I can see why Dr Haines is popular. If I may say so, he was brilliant with all this patients, quietly reassuring, professional and all with a dose of quiet humour, which put a smile on their faces.

My next appointment was lunch with the editor of the Dorset Echo, Toby Granville.

It was on me, before you ask!

Toby leads a rejuvinated local paper, which are so important, I believe. I've know Toby for some time now and I find him inquiring, affable and very able. We're lucky to have him.

We ate at the Sunray in Osmington, which I recommend highly. Then in mid afternoon, I returned to the office.

Mon, 15 Aug

 

My first port of call was to contact Dave Wright, the father of the Royal Marine James, tragically killed recently in Afghanistan.

After a brief chat, I hopped on to my motorbike and headed down to Weymouth to meet the family.

Not only was James' family there, but his girlfriend's too. They were all understandably still grieving, which will take a lot of time.

They are facing up to this appalling sadness with such dignity and it was a real pleasure to meet them all and chat about James, who was clearly a special young man.

The funeral, which I sadly cannot attend, is next Tuesday. It will be a full military one, which I know will be carried out with tremendous style and in a manner totally appropriate to the occasion.  

The rest of the day was spent on a myriad of tasks, mainly constituency matters. 

Fri, 12 Aug

 

The furore over the riots continues apace. But now the PM has come under fire from police chiefs for seeming to claim that more officers hit the streets after ministers took control.

This is not the sort of row we need right now, but I did think it odd during yesterday's debate that the police were being criticized in the Chamber even as exhausted officers were still recovering from long stints on the streets.

It is not our job to run the police operationally. That is for senior officers and for them alone.

Our job is to support them, provide them with the equipment to do the job and to ensure there are enough of them to meet the task in hand.

Any criticism at this stage should occur behind closed doors and in private.

Back in Dorset, I headed down to the National Sailing Academy to meet up with members of LOCOG, the government organisation running the Games.

A number of local politicians and officers were given a useful tour and brief, which included looking at the competitors' accommodation on Officers' Field.

Then, I headed bac to the office and dealt with a number of issues, not least our fight to locate the new Coastguard super centre in Weymouth/Portland.

The evening news told us about a number of rioters who are now going through the courts. They range from children to a teaching assistant - so sad.

Thu, 11 Aug

 

I rose early and was soon running arouind the park. London was deserted, or so it seemed.

Normally, I am accompanied by hundreds of other runners, bicyclists and dog walkers, but today it was just me!

We'd been recalled to Parliament today, to debate the riots. First up at 1130 was the Prime Minister.

He spoke well, I thought, and touched on many issues which concern us all. I was delighted to hear him say that police would be given the powers to order people to remove face masks. 

We live in a democracy and if you want to protest, fine, but don't hide your face for fear of being caught carrying out a criminal act. That is not democracy.

I was also glad to hear the PM say there would be funds made available to help all those affected by the riots and looting.

Where I disagree with Mr Cameron is his intent to plough on with cuts to the police. If this affects frontline officers - and many believe it will - then I oppose them.

In addition, the uniformed branch of our country are second to none. Proud, professional and service-minded, these men and women should be valued like gold.

I'm all for running organisations more efficiently, but I have serious doubts over the government's plans.

The PM took questions for about 90 minutes, before he was let off the hook and George Osborne came to the Despatch Box. 

Again, the Chancellor spoke well, although I think he should lower taxes - both personal and business and including VAT - significantly.

His opposite number is Ed Balls, who really did live up to his name, I'm afraid, by making a right hash of his opportunity to question the Chancellor.

Balls' eyes bulge and he becomes more and more animated as his rant gathers momentum. 

Then, it was the turn of Theresa May, the Home Secretary, and the debate got under way at about 1600.

Thinking I'd applied to speak early on in the process, I had not imagined being at the bottom of the list, of three from bottom, to be accurate.

So, by the time I inquired with the Deputy Speaker whether I had a chance of being called, the clock was saying 1800.

The debate was extended for an hour to 2000, but even then there were so many speakers I did not have a chance of being called, which is a great pity.

The speech I intended to make is on my website - www.richarddrax.com - so do read it if you want.

After catching up with a mass of issues in my office, I headed home, arriving back at 2100. An interesting day but how sad we had to hold it at all. 

Wed, 10 Aug

 

The day started early as I fell out of bed at 0630 to meet a reporter from BBC Radio Solent to contribute to Julian Clegg's breakfast show.

Overnight, three men had been killed in Birmingham, run over by a thug in a car. 

This whole nightmare has a sci-fi element to it all - surreal almost.

I vented my wrath on air, condemning the rioters and looters and praising the brave men and women of our emergency services.

Some sort of law and order appears to have been restored in London at least, but forces elsewhere are also now facing copycat violence.

I spoke at length to Clive Chamberlain, the chairman of the Dorset Police Federation, and the Chief Constable, the very able Martin Baker.

Both men are a credit to their force and we are lucky to have them in Dorset.

I wanted to discuss various issues before drafting my speech, which hopefully I will be called to make during tomorrow's debate in the Chamber.

I then dealt with various press matters, completed my two columns - one for the Dorset Echo, the other for the Gazette - and finally called the parents of Royal Marine James Wright, who was recently killed on active service in Afghanistan.

I am planning to visit the family next week and hopefully attend the funeral, which is planned for Thursday.

Then, it was into the car and up to London for tomorrow's debate.

Tue, 9 Aug

My anger had reached boiling point  by the time the local press had contacted me, asking for comments on another night's rioting in London and now in other cities across the country.

This behaviour is a disgrace and is nothing more than feral youths, in most cases, going on a rampage of looting and destruction. 

Let's hope they are identified, tried and sent to prison. 

While events unfurled at an alarming pace, I hopped on my motorcycle and headed down to Weymouth to meet Phil Owens, from Natural England, who is negotiating his way through numerous minefields to advance access to the coastal path from Weymouth eastwards. 

Two county council rangers accompanied him and we chatted over a coffee at a charming hilltop cafe above Preston.  

After a most useful brief, I went to the town's CAB office to re-acquaint myself with the charming Bob Bullin, the bureau manager, and his lovely team.

We spent a good hour together, chatting about the CAB's role and future. The organisation does a fantastic job and it is very important, in my view, that funding should continue.

Sitting astride my motorbike, I then had to make several calls to catch up on events, not least meeting an old friend from BBC Radio Solent, who had come to interview me. Always a pleasure to keep up with my former workmates.

Back to the office and, after several more letters, I lept into some running kit and worked up a good honest sweat before enjoying a beer!

Mon, 8 Aug

 

Riots and looters in the capital bring shame to our country. Those poor men and women of the emergency services who have been facing real adversity as they go about their business. It's at moments like this that you see the best and worst in people, sadly the latter is utterly unacceptable.

Spent the day dealing with correspondence, organising future constituency events and dealing with press matters.

Fri, 5 Aug

 

Up in the office early. Can always get most done when no one else is around! I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds this.

Spent the morning working on constituency matters before heading to Wool for my surgery. 

A full surgery saw a range of problems, some of them so very sad. It is often frustrating as the MP to find that organisations which really should have behaved more professionally act so incompetently, leaving my constituents frustrated and often upset. 

Then, back to the office, first to deal with one of my surgery cases which needed prompt action, and then to finish off the day on other matters.

Thu, 4 Aug

 

A busy day, beginning at Bournemouth Airport. Why there, you ask? It's not my constituency, and you're right, it is not.  

However, many constituents use it and I was there to see the new departure and arrivals terminal, which has cost more than £40 million!

The problem is that passenger numbers have dropped from c1.2 million to c600,000, reducing the airport's income considerably, as you can imagine.

This is due to recession and tax rises in the industry and of course on us. 

However, the new look airport is impressive and a long way from the breakfast-stop style which I have been used to for so many years.

Then it was across to Dorchester to revisit Wessex FM, the excellent commercial radio station which I and many others enjoy listening to.

The relatively new MD Steve Bulley was charming, as was Maria, his head of news. The station's doing well and I was impressed by their enthusiasm.

Finally across to Wareham for my quarterly farmers' meeting, which is proving a great success. There are many issues in the rural community, not least affordable housing, and I feel the farming community has been ignored far too long.

We chatted until 1900 and then headed home.

Wed, 3 Aug

 

A long morning in the office, led to a break down to the scenic Ringstead Bay to meet local residents concerned by erosion from the sea.

I met them all at John Young's lovely home, located only yards from the pebble beach. 

He had prepared a very thorough brief for me and after an hour chatting through the issues, we went for a stroll along the beach itself.

I could see quite clearly what the problem is. A rock groyne at one end of the beach had prevented further erosion but had of course pushed the problem along the coastline. 

West Dorset District Council is working closely with the Environment Agency to find a solution and of course then deal with it.

The residents believe they've already got one and want the EA to give the go-ahead. The beach was refreshed some years ago and much of that work has now been washed into the sea. Residents want permission to recover it from the sea and put it back on the beach.

Regrettably, there's a lot of red tape in the way, not to mention the various environmental designations along the coastline.

Let's hope a way forward can be found. I shall do my best to help.

Then, it was back to the office for the rest of the day. 

Tue, 2 Aug

 

A beautiful day and an early start. 

I decided motorbike was the best form of transport after my experiences in Weymouth yesterday. 

And so hopping on my KTM I headed down to Portland first to visit the new St John Ambulance centre in Easton.

I was met by the lovely Terry Shakespeare, the local boss, and she introduced me to two youngsters, both wishing to enter the medical profession after their A Levels at Budmouth.

We all had a good chat and I discovered that the charity needs more young volunteers, so if you are reading this diary do get in touch with them.

Then, it was on to meet a couple who've been through hell, suffering from anti-social behaviour. Their story was a truly horrific one, although I am glad to report the situation is now under control.

Finally, I dropped in on John Tweed, the CEO at the Sailing Academy, to see how the pre Olympic sailing event was running.

All the competitors from across the world are there now, all fighting hard to make it to the Games themselves. 

Back on my motorcycle to the office where I continued with the many constituency matters. 

Mon, 1 Aug

 

Back from Norway, which experienced the most appalling trauma while we were there. A lone gunman, Anders Behring Breivik, killed 77 people and injured many more in a bomb attack in Oslo and a shooting spree on an island where hundreds of youngsters were attending an annual rally.

As we llistened to the radio reports, we simply could not believe what we were hearing. It defies belief, really, and my heart goes out to all those affected. 

Back at my desk the in-tray was bulging, as you can imagine. After a morning at my desk, I headed down to Weymouth to visit the new, community fire station in Weymouth.

Minister Bob Neill was also visiting and I met him there with Chief Fire Officer Darran Gunter. 

After a tour of the building, one of the Watches put on an impressive display of rescuing people from a tall building using ropes. My admiration for today's firefighters is unlimited. The techniques needed now are many and varied and expectations are high.

The visit lasted about two hours and ended on a short brief on preparations for the Olympic games.

I returned home and worked through to the evening on more correspondence.