February 2010

Sat, 27 Feb
Today, I joined a team on Portland. I always enjoy my trips to the island, which was bathed in sun as I drove across the causeway.
 
We met many friendly people, enjoyed a brief lunch in the Conservative Club, before heading back out into the sunshine.
 

 
Fri, 26 Feb
After spending the day on a number of issues raised by prospective constituents, I was heading out of the door to attend a fund-raising dinner when the phone rang.
 
The voice sounded excited and breathless. It was Laurice, Mark Turner's partner, calling from their pub at Corfe Castle.
 
I listened to her quietly, disbelief registering in my mind. Mark's son, Michael Turner, and his business colleague, Jason McGoldrick, had been released from jail in Hungary. No reason had been given.
 
If you recall, both men handed themselves over to the Hungarian authorities on 2 November last year. Since then, they've been in jail, without charge, waiting to face allegations of fraud concerning the collapse of their marketing business in 2005.
 
I and other campaigners, including the men's London barrister and Hungarian lawyer, have claimed the extradition itself was flawed. The government has sat on its hands as these two men have rotted in jail.
 
Of course it was this rotten Labour government which signed us up to the Lisbon Treaty, throwing away more of our rights and laws designed to protect our citizens. 
 
We are all hoping that Michael and Jason will be able to come home soon, although everyone is still baffled why they were released so suddenly. We should know more on Monday.
 
So, it was with light heart and a smile on my face that I attended a fund-raising dinner at Weymouth College. Oliver Letwin MP was our guest speaker and he gave an excellent speech.
 
The delicious food was prepared and served by college students. They did a fantastic job and we all had a fun evening.
 

 
Thu, 25 Feb
First thing I re-visited Derek Smith, the interim CEO at Dorset County Hospital. Our conversation was private, but he did confirm what I feared. Derek is sadly leaving on 8 July and the hospital is currently looking for a permanent chief executive.
 
Whoever he or she is has got one helluva task ahead of them.
 
Afterwards, I went to meet Richard Gudgeon, who's behind this palm oil plant on Portland. Again, our conversation was private, but I was interested to hear all about the project which is currently stuck in the planning process.
 

  
Wed, 24 Feb
In the evening I attended another Drax Direct in Weymouth's Park District. I was met by Ken Whatley, a charming local resident who runs the community hall.
 
My small team of volunteers soon had tea on the boil and our small session began at about 7.15pm. Despite the small turnout, the questions continued for an hour and a half.
 
One gentleman took copious notes and asked a few questions. The evening ended amicably, with a few more people having had the chance to meet me.
 

 
Tue, 23 Feb
My first task today was immensely interesting. A couple had requested to meet me in Weymouth, so I was only too happy to oblige.
 
They could not have been more charming, with the gentleman explaining his family was steeping in mining and ardent supporters of Labour.
 
But times have changed, he explained, and then went on to voice his concerns in many areas which sounded all too familiar to me.
 
Wishing them both well, I left for Osmington to visit someone else who had a problem he wanted to share. I could see the scale of the problem but was unable to help, sadly. He knew that, but wanted to lodge his concern in the event the Conservatives win power.
 
In the evening, I attended an annual presentation ceremony at Budmouth Technology College. I'd been asked to give certificates and ties to peer leaders - prefects in my day - who were all participating in a wonderful project designed to encourage confidence and responsibility.
 
There were four teams, all with different roles. For example, one team dealt with mentoring other students who perhaps had problems or were being bullied. Another took parents and VIPs on tours of the college.
 
The evening began with an anti-bullying dance, performed by three students. The girls did a brilliant job and set the mood for what was an entertaining and rewarding evening.
 

 
Mon, 22 Feb
Another mountain of emails and correspondence welcomed my return to the office at 7am. And then there was our twentieth Drax Direct to prepare for in West Lulworth.
 
The evening went well, with questions taking the event to about 9pm. Again, the range of people's concerns is enormous and fascinating.
 

 
Sun, 21 Feb
The point to point at Badbury Rings was well supported. It was hard to tell how many people were there, but certainly many thousands.
 
I mingled with the crowds for some hours, chatting to stall holders, the police and many punters from across the region. It was a wonderful, family day, and a chance for me and my two sons to try our luck with the horses in a very small way.
 
There's something about gambling that I hate, and that's losing! Then, there's that temptation to try and get it back on the next race. However, a delicious pint of local ale soon buried that temptation.
 

 
Thu, 18 Feb
I had a sad task today. I drove to Wootton Bassett to attend the repatriation ceremony of five soldiers, one of whom was Rifleman Mark Marshall, another L/Cpl Darren Hicks, of the Coldstream Guards, my former regiment.
 
It was my first visit to Wootton Bassett and having parked my car I went off to join a contingent of former soldiers from The Rifles, who'd come to pay their respects.
 
I found them in a cafe behind the war memorial, having a warm drink and watching the rain pour down. There were many former soldiers there and it didn't take me long to find some Guardsmen who'd also come to pay their respects.
 
At about 2pm we walked out into the rain, which was continuing to lash down, and took our place on the roadside. Shortly afterwards, the families and friends of the dead soldiers came out of a pub opposite and took their place in front of the memorial to await the cortege of five coffins.
 
At about 3.30pm a single church bell began to toll, mournfully. Then, at a snail's pace, the five hearses appeared. On command, the standard bearers lowered their standards and we all stood to attention. Opposite the memorial, the cars stopped, and the families came forward to lay their flowers and mourn. 
 
I can only say that as the loud sobs broke the quietness of the parade, I felt like I've never felt before. It's hard to describe and was a mixture of deep sadness and sympathy for the families and an anger that these young men had to die at all.
 
A few moments later and it was all over. The hearses disappeared down the street, leaving mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and friends and relations clinging to each other in a scene that to the onlooker appeared surreal it was so awful.
 
Deeply moved, I said my farewells and drove home deep in thought. The price of freedom has always been high and ceremonies like today's only remind you of that terrible cost.
 

  
Wed, 17 Feb
Again, my first task was to meet another couple, but in Winfrith this time. They'd kindly asked a neighbour round because all of them could not attend my Drax Direct in the evening.
 
I spent a hour with them, listening to the same concerns and the same anger and frustration with this rotten government. Labour's day are truly numbered, I hope, and the whole country will give a huge sigh of relief when they're sent packing.
 
Then, it was on to the Dorset Police annual dog section open day. Families, friends and guests watched an impressive series of demonstrations which showed off the abilities of both dogs and handlers. 
 
After lunch the presentations were made. I was greatly honoured to present one - the Drax Search Trophy - to newly promoted Sgt Glenn Batt and his wonderful dog Theo. The latter was rescued and has taken time to bring on. It's to Sgt Batt's credit and patience that Theo is now performed so well. 
 
He is credited with making several finds and in some unusual places - a sofa, deep freeze and Sky TV box. The morning flew past, with everyone enjoying the spectacle and amusing commentary. The section is an invaluable asset to the service, which is lucky to have such a dedicated team in place. We are ALL lucky, for that matter.
 
In the evening, I attended our 18th Drax Direct at Winfrith village hall. I am pleased the way they are going and will continue right up to the election.
 

 
Tue, 16 Feb
Before attending the Swanage Conservative's annual lunch, I dropped in on couple who had asked to see me. I soon found they were staunch supporters and just needed reassuring that were we to win the general election it wasn't too late to save our country from ruin.
 
It's not, I said, but it will take time to put right what this government has systematically undone. Devolution to Wales and Scotland, the move to impose regional assemblies, the slide to political integration with the EU, uncontrolled immigration, the dumbing down of virtually every gold standard this country ever had ... the list is endless.
 
All this has divided our nation and, worse, made us angry. But that's Socialist policy: divide and rule, and they have been incredibly successful. This must stop and I hope it will on 7th May.
 
Lunch at the Isle of Purbeck Golf Club was a fun do, well attended and with everyone in positive spirits. What a spectacular view it is from the club house. 
 

 
Mon, 15 Feb
First thing, I went to meet two prospective constituents in Weymouth. They were outraged at what Labour was up to. After an hour's reassurance, the couple felt better and I was on my way.
 
The afternoon was full of political meetings and responding to emails. There's a lot on, but I would not have it any other way.
 

 
Sun, 14 Feb
St Valentine's Day and fortunately I had remembered to send my lovely wife some flowers. So, a good start to the day, before I headed off to support the South Dorset Point to Point at Milborne St Andrew.
 
The weather was kind and it was well attended. Everyone was taking a flutter or two, tucking into some delicious steak sandwiches from one of the stalls and generally having a fun time.
 
I do admire the riders as they leap aboard their mounts, some of which look mad! Fired up and raring to go, it must be like sitting on a runaway train. Not for the faint hearted.
 

 
Sat, 13 Feb
It was colder than any of us expected today. It was the tips of the fingers that took the brunt! But the sun shone and Wool looked picturesque as we canvassed there all day.
 
A short lunch stop at the Bear returned some warmth to our fingers, before we marched back out into the cold air to meet more prospective constituents.
 
One lovely couple were celebrating 60 years of marriage and had received a card from the Queen. The secret of their longevity? Friendship. It was wonderful to see two people so happy and peaceful in each other's company.
 

 
Fri, 12 Feb
I had to chuckle this morning when a supporter called to say he'd received an unsolicited call from Labour. Apparently, part of the waffle includes having a go at me. No surprise there, perhaps. But it's what's being said which made me laugh.
 
I am not 'local', apparently. I think a family presence here for some 600 years may qualify as local, don't you.
 
The frightening fact is that Labour has nothing to sell any more and they will sink to any level to retain power, both nationally and locally. But we've listened to their lies and spin for 12 long years now, and it's time for change.
 

 
Thu, 11 Feb
An outraged supporter began my day, accusing the sitting Labour MP of scurrilous behaviour. I knew what he was talking about even before he had time to explain.
 
Recent Labour literature is attacking the Conservative county council over the issues of secondary provision for Swanage. What is scurrilous in many people's view, is that the Labour MP is quoted in the Gazette before Christmas saying he wants to keep the whole issue ' non political'. Clearly, it is now nakedly political as he launches a rather shabby attack on the county council.
 
I'm sure the electorate has not forgotten that he was the Minister for Education while this review was going on and the county council is doing nothing more than following Labour guidelines. In addition, Labour dangled £80 million in front of the council if it re-organised education provision, meeting certain criteria.
 
The opportunity to invest large sums of money in education in Purbeck was not lost on the county council, but not a penny of this has materialised so far. I would bet quite a lot that it might just re-appear before the election!
 
I don't think any of us need spin from the sitting MP. We've all had enough of it, and it really is time for change.
 
In the evening, I attended and thoroughly enjoyed a fundraiser for Michael Turner, who's rotting in an Hungarian jail, without charge, for alleged fraud offences. Michael's father, Mark, had organised some bands and an auction and the evening was well attended and a great success.
 
We continue to fight to get Michael repatriated on the grounds he was extradited illegally. There is evidence to support this claim, which both Michael's London barrister and Hungarian lawyer agree on. We battle on.
 

 
Wed, 10 Feb
I had a fascinating visit this morning to Weymouth's CCTV HQs. I can't tell you where it is, but I can tell you a little about it.
 
The operation has cameras in Bridport, Dorchester and Weymouth. The pictures these cameras produce are high quality and are frequently used in court cases and to resolve other issues.
 
Working closely with the police, retailers and the Port authority, the camera operators provide an invaluable service. Now, I am one of those people who has always questioned the use of cameras for fear they would equate to less police officers on the beat.
 
However, now I've seen the way they are used and co-ordinate with the town, I can see the huge benefits these cameras bring. Perhaps it's a price we have to pay nowadays.
 
Afterwards, I met up with a couple in the town who are disillusioned and deeply upset at the way our country is going. I did my best to reassure them that a Conservative government would have the courage to act and do what is necessary to turn things round.
 
I had a final chat with the lady as Idrove her into town. I left her feeling a little better, I hope. Keep the faith, I told her, I will represent you in the House of Commons and stand up and say it how it is.
 
In the evening, I was at St Andrew's Church Hall in Preston for our next Drax Direct. As always, the questions came thick and fast and the general view was they were all tired of this government. There is hope out there, I told them. They just had to believe it.
 

 
Tue, 9 Feb
I further pursued the possibility of the county council taking over James Day temporarily, to give residents and their families more time to find somewhere else.
 
I am told the county council offered Care South a three month rent free period, but all attempts to compromise were turned down. Care South has made up its mind and it was going, and that was that.
 
I hope that once this phase is over, the county council, or another provider, can find another use for this building, which is located in the perfect place to host some form of social care.
 

 
 
Mon, 8 Feb
Sadly, much of the day was spent dealing with the repercussions of the James Day announcement. Understandably, residents' families are angry, confused and worried for their loved ones.
 
I have been assured by both the county council and Care South that all 22 residents will be found new accommodation, and I believe that process has already started.
 
Meanwhile, lawyers for the county council are looking at the covenant, which is believed to be on the land.
 
Here, too, I have been assured that if it exists and says the land must be used for the benefit of Swanage residents, it shall be. These closures are never pleasant and regrettably it is very unlikely the county council will take the home on itself. There are too many complexities, I am told, not least employing more than 40 staff who are likely to face redundancy.
 
Meanwhile, and inevitably, I suppose, grubby politics is messing the waters and confusing residents and their families even more. I, personally, do not think this is the right way to behave.
 

 
Sat, 6 Feb
Our team spent the day in Weymouth, meeting residents and listening to their concerns. From a damp, overcast start to the day, the sun broke through by mid morning and stayed with us until the evening.
 

 
Fri, 5 Feb
With the sun shining brightly, I headed down to Swanage to try and meet the manager of James Day Home. I just wanted to see how she was bearing up and if there's anything I could do.
 
Regrettably, she was busy, although a Care South representative was not keen for me to talk to her. To be fair, the team clearly had their hands full, meeting with relatives and dealing with the consequences of this sad announcement.
 

 
Thu, 4 Feb
I went to visit a businessman today on Portland. A smashing family man, he believes passionately in removing politics from business. By that I mean punitive taxation, over regulation, EU interference, onerous and unwieldly employment law and many other things which have stifled British business over the past 12 years.
 
We need a return to common sense, the light touch and the determination to let our businesses and entrepreneurs fly. For it is they who create the wealth and jobs, not the state. Therein lies Labour's fault.
 
By this stage the news of the impending closure of the James Day Home in Swanage was very much on my radar. I had spent much of the morning on the phone trying to establish the facts.
 
I managed to arrange a time to meet Care South, the not for profit charity which runs the home. This I duly did at 4pm. The company's representative confirmed what I'd been told. That was the home was old, half full and had received a 'poor' rating following a formal inspection. The rent, which was independently assessed, had also risen.
 
The county council had offered Care South a three month rent free period to allow residents and families more time to find alternative accommodation. This offer was turned down, as was all forms of arbitration.
 
I am desperately sorry for residents and their families. Although the home did not meet many modern requirements, it was a comfortable place which suited those who are there. The upheaval this closure will cause can only be imagined.
 
But, it looks like a straight forward business decision at the end of the day, with Care South wishing to invest in its other 18 profitable homes, not that this will comfort the 23 residents who now face an uncertain future, at least in the short term. It is a very sad day.
 

 
Wed, 3 Feb
I'd been looking forward to re-visiting the Tank Museum at Bovington for some time. And I was not let down. For those who have not visited the museum since its £16 million refurbishment, can I suggest you go.
 
From its new, wide spacious entrance, to the thoughtfully laid out exhibits, I thought the whole experience was most impressive.
 
The director Richard Smith could not have been kinder, or better informed, and gave me a guided tour to die for. I adore military history and to see these armoured monsters, all laid out in the new display hall, is quite something.
 
The museum's future plans are exciting, too, and I can only wish Richard and his large staff continued success in the years ahead.
 
Then, on to the office, before another Drax Direct in Stoborough. We had a packed meeting and the questioning went on for nearly two hours.
 

 
Tue, 2 Feb
I was invited up to Sherborne School to address about 50 students studying A Level politics. It's always fun meeting young people and this was to be no exception.
 
First of all, though, I had to find the main entrance. I don't know if you've ever been to Sherborne, but it's like a maze. I did get there in time, just.
 
I had an hour and after a brief talk opened the floor to questions. They came thick and fast and the hour sped past. Clearly, these youngsters are very privileged and one of our main tasks, shoud we be given it, must be to revolutionise education in the state sector, which many commentators agree has failed another generation under this government.
 

 
Mon, 1 Feb
I had the great pleasure of once again supporting Weymouth's round Britain charity walker Seb Green. At a brief ceremony at Dorset County Hospital, the 20 year old presented the final sum of money to the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance. They in turn presented Seb with a framed certificate, prompting him to comment there was no more room on his wall!
 
Seb is an extraordinary young man. A book on his mammoth walk is about to be published. It's been put together by Mary Harper, the area's Duke of Edinburgh's Award co-ordinator. It was she who cajoled, bullied, supported, mothered and encouraged Seb during his journey. It will make a fascinating read.
 
Anyway, Seb is now studying for his A Levels and hopes to pursue a career with the Royal Marines. Yomping should not be a problem after his experience! He's also looking for a job, so if anyone can help in this regard, do please contact me?