January 2010

Sat, 30 Jan
Time to hit the streets and to continue meeting my prospective constituents, this time in Swanage. The feedback from the door was most encouraging. They are tired of Labour, its spin and what is perceived as a total disrespect of our island history and everything we cherish.
 
The Conservative Club was, as always, busy and full of supporters. We wolfed down some delicious sandwiches at lunchtime, before heading back into the cold, clear air for the afternoon.
 

 
Fri, 29 Jan
My wife woke me early with a cup of coffee and calls of happy birthday. I am now getting younger each year; that's official!
 
But birthday, or not, there was still plenty to do, including attending the funeral of Mary Anna Marten, from Crichel, a lifelong friend and supporter.
 
The church at Wimborne St Giles was packed.
 
She was an exceptional woman. Bright, articulate, a wonderful mother and wife, humorous, upright and a lover of life and people. It is very sad when a generation passes on. Something special goes with them.
 

 
Thu, 28 Jan
The last time I visited Leeson House, in Langton Matravers, it was under threat of closure. I was then reporting for BBC South Today. That was a few years ago now.
 
I'm glad to report that on this occasion my visit was nothing more than to offer my support to a wonderful facility which so enriches young people's lives. 
 
Barry Cullimore, the centre manager, has done the most outstanding job, attracting new users and generating more income. His zeal is easy to see and his enthusiasm infectious.
 
At one of my Drax Directs recently, I was accosted by a Labour supporter who claimed that Conservative 'cuts' would affect places like Leeson House. Can I say that the Conservative county council, which owns and runs the property, is right behind Leeson House. So, if you hear any rumours to the contrary, please remind yourselves that an election is just around the corner!
 

 
Wed, 27 Jan
My first call was to meet and talk with kate Hindson at Weymouth & Portland Borough Council. We'd agreed to meet to discuss a number of issues, not least HMOs. It was useful and informative meeting and Kate could not have been more helpful.
 
Then, it was on to meet some prospective constituents, all in Weymouth, and discuss their concerns to see if there was anything I could do to help. Often, people just want reassurance that there is someone out there to talk to.
 

 
Tue, 26 Jan
I was very grateful to our shadow pensions minister, Nigel Waterson MP, who joined me in South Dorset to address an invited audience from across the constituency, all involved with or providing help for those of pensionable age.
 
We met at the Angling Club in Weymouth, where round Britain walker Seb Green opened the batting with a talk on his extraordinary and courageous experience.
 
Nigel then gave a 15 minute talk on how we intended to try and give some dignity back to the elderly, who have been so let down by this government, which has raided their pension pot to the tune of £5 billion a year.
 
The questions came thick and fast afterwards, which Nigel fielded with confidence and clarity.
 
We then moved to a care home in the town run by Derek Luckhurst, whose company Agincare employs about 1,800 people. It was a useful and illuminating visit.
 
Nigel then had to return to the Commons for a vote so, leaving him to the mercy of South West Trains, I headed back to our office and a full in-tray.
 

 
Mon, 25 Jan
Our Corfe Castle branch held its AGM in the village hall tonight. I spoke briefly to the members before we opened the doors to the public for another Drax Direct.
 
The questions came thick and fast, with concerns ranging from the war in Afghanistan to regaining our integrity in both politics and the country as a whole.
 
These evenings are proving most informative for me. As I say, people have a wide range of concerns and interests which I am accumulating in my mind. Hopefully, one day soon, I shall be able to represent many of these views in the House.
 

 
Thu, 21 Jan
Today was a chance to re-acquaint myself with one of Weymouth's well established businesses - New Look. Although it's clothes distribution centre has gone, the company still employs hundreds of administrative staff here.
 
I met the company's chief financial officer and the HR director and, having settled into one of their comfortable boardroom chairs, was deep in conversation about their business and its future.
 
They have exciting plans to develop the site, which could bring hundreds more jobs to the area. Just what we need.
 
Then, in the evening, I attended what can only be described as a most memorable presentation and awards ceremony, hosted by The Rifles in Dorchester.
 
One of the army's most senior officers, Lt Gen Mans CBE, presented the awards to a number of Dorset army cadets, whose achievements are quite astonishing.
 
Touchingly, two of the awards were presented by the wife and mother of two members of The Rifles who were sadly killed on operations in Afghanistan.
 
To see these smart youngsters and hear what they've done was very moving. If only more young people would follow this path.
 
It really was an honour to be there and I left feeling totally uplifted by the experience.
 

 
Wed, 20 Jan
It was decision time today on whether there should be any further debate on secondary school provision in Swanage. One of main exponents of this project - Education Swanage - did not attend what they saw was a foregone conclusion.
 
In the end, they were proved right. County officers told the Cabinet there simply were not the funds for a split-site school in Swanage and any further moves down this path could damage the education provision for children across Dorset, not just Purbeck.
 
So, sadly, this dream has faded for the moment. I have to pay tribute to all the hard work and research Education Swanage did in order to present its case.
 
What saddens me is that a Conservative council has no option but to impose a Labour system on Purbeck where big is beautiful. I cannot agree with this, in addition to the fact that a town as big as Swanage needs a secondary school for its longer term health.
 

 
Tue, 19 Jan
A mountain of correspondence from surveys and prospective constituents kept me firmly behind my desk for most of the day. In the evening I went to address to Weymouth & Portland Private Landlords' Association.
 
There were about fifty people present, many of whom I knew. I was one of two guest speakers, the other being Kate Hindson from the borough council. There was some debate about HMOs, licensing, and other related matters.
 
It was an interesting evening and judging from what I heard there is clearly a lot of confusion in the private rental sector, both between landlords and the council, and these two organisations and national legislation. It is not a simple area and one I noted we must look at should we win the election.
 
I'm a great believer in keeping things as simple as possible, if possible. As we used to say in the army: KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid!
 

 
Mon, 18 Jan
Time to catch up with Mark Turner, who's back from visiting his son, Michael, in jail in Hungary. The bad news is that Michael has lost a lot of weight and is beginning to look haggard and confused.
 
The good news is that Fair Trials International are now involved and will do what they can to help. They agree with us that Michael should be granted bail, so he can at least live a reasonable life rather than remain incarcerated in a small cell for 23 hours a day.
 
Both Mark and I are still waiting to hear from the Prime Minister, who we delivered a letter to, personally. We have had an acknowledgement, but nothing more. And every day that goes by must be torture for Michael, not to mention his family.
 

 
 
Fri, 15 Jan
'No Excuse' - that was very clearly the message from a number of organisations, including the county council, police and fire and rescue service, at the launch of their campaign this morning to reduce the number of people killed on our roads.
 
We heard how a dedicated team of traffic police will target hot spots across the county to catch dangerous and careless drivers. They will use both marked and covert vehicles, so watch out!
 
But that's the point. They want you to think that the car behind you is a police car and you will then drive accordingly. A very similar campaign has been run with great success in Essex.
 
While listening, I jotted down some interesting statistics, which I pass on for your information. The county council has 4,000 miles of road within its jurisdiction; each fatal crash costs nearly £2 million, quite apart from the misery and heartache to families and loved ones, which of course you cannot cost; and that the average speed in Dorset is 35mph, despite an improvement in roads. The message was that if drivers know this they will plan accordingly, rather than leave things to the last moment and race to their appointment.
 
Of course, farm vehicles came into the conversation and how frustrating they can be if you are in a hurry. At home, I instruct my team to pull over at regular intervals if a large queue is building up behind them. This is not only polite, but stops drivers taking silly risks as their patience runs out. 
 
But, rightly, you drivers out there who do take stupid risks, drive dangerously, drink and take drugs or just like to see the speedometer reach its limit, will be caught and prosecuted. As the slogan says: No Excuse.
 

 
Thu, 14 Jan
The scenes in Haiti get more heartbreaking every day. Moves are at last at foot to send aid, which will hopefully be arriving now in the volume it is clearly needed.
 
In the afternoon, I was interviewed by a young graduate studying media at Bournemouth University. He was filing a report on Michael Turner, the Corfe Castle man jailed in Hungary. On this story there are no immediate developments.
 
I had a brief conversation with Mark, Michael's dad the other day, who's been out to see him again. Apparently, Michael has lost more weight and his clothes are beginning to hang off him. Understandably, dad is worried, as are we all.
 
We are still waiting to hear from Gordon Brown, who I hope has put his top people on to this to ensure a speedy repatriation, while the Hungarian authorities continue their investigation into these alleged fraud charges. The situation is far from satisfactory and is just one example of what closer political integration with the EU means in reality.
 
In the evening, I travelled to Briantspuddle for another Drax Direct. There was a good turnout and the conversation flowed freely. On this occasion, I did not notice any Labour pens scribbling frantically at the back!
 
And, as I have said already, I have nothing to hide and I  believe a lot to offer - like hope for our country for starters.
 

 
Wed, 13 Jan
What an appalling mess in Haiti. Those poor, poor people. I have some experience of the country, having been sent there by the BBC some years ago.
 
I was following up the story of a young sailor called Philome Guerrier, who lost both his legs while his ship was docking at Poole in a terrible accident. His legs got caught within a curled mooring rope, one end of which was secured to the shore, the other to the boat.
 
I followed his story and his remarkable survival and recovery for months, until he was well enough to return home. Curious to see where he lived and how, I requested to follow him home and was subsequently despatched.
 
I spent a fascinating week in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere. I found Philome and his family living in a cardboard city, with an open sewer at the back of their home. In addition to battling poverty, his courage was an example to anyone with a physical disability. I was truly humbled by this man.
 
I can't help wondering whether he is all right following this massive earthquake. We lost touch a long time ago now, but I hope he and his family are all right. No doubt the television coverage which will follow this disaster in the days ahead will serve as a reminder just how lucky we all are here in the UK.
 
Tonight, I attended another Drax Direct at Herston Hall in Swanage. Having spoken for about ten minutes, I took questions for about an hour before we all headed home.
 
Later, I heard from a reliable source that Labour has instructed people to attend my meetings and to note everything I say. The spies are out. I have noted several people with notebooks recently and no doubt these are my opponent's servants.
 
Everyone is welcome at our Drax Directs and I have nothing to hide or be ashamed about. I was selected on the grounds I would speak my mind and stand up for my constituents if elected. This I shall, without fear or favour.
 
And if the only thing the opposition can do is note what I say in the hope I slip on what they perceive to be a banana skin, then I suggest they are fighting on the back foot, with little to say themselves.
 

    Mon, 11 Jan
Slightly warmer today and evidence of a thaw at last. I feel for the elderly in particular. Roads and pavements are slippery and icy and a fall in your later years is very unpleasant.
 
I found myself helping a lady from Portland who is at loggerheads with the county council. In short she has popped her mum - at her request - into a home. As you know, the council then has to assess that person's assets to enable them to set a charge.
 
Well, this lady says her mum gifted some of her assets to her family, but she's being assessed on what she had before the gift and not after. I am getting involved in this case, which I am still not totally au fait with, but it does raise one or two questions, as I'm sure you'd agree.
 

 
Fri, 8 Jan
Today, I caught up with Mark Turner, the charming publican whose son, Michael, is stuck in an Hungarian jail, facing an investigation into alleged fraud. 
 
Mark told me that a well respected organisation called Fair Trials Abroad was now involved, which is very good news. Both Mark and I have received holding letters from 10 Downing Street after we delivered personal letters to the Prime Minister before Christmas.Hopefully Mr Brown is looking closely at this case because there is evidence to suggest that on a technical point Michael should not have been extradited.
 
And I'd like to make my involvement in this case clear to you all. Michael is a prospective constituent. He is innocent until proved guilty, just like anybody else. I am standing by Michael and his family, as is my duty. Michael's father would the first to say that if indeed there is a case for his son to answer, he must answer it. I do, too. 
 
But Michael is currently in jail without charge and could be there for months. Michael's London barrister, Mark and I think this is legally incorrect.
 

 
Thu, 7 Jan
After a day dealing with prospective constituents' matters - including a jailed son, icy roads and a woman claiming to have been hounded out of her home by anti-social behaviour - I drove to Swanage for another Drax Direct.
 
We held this one in the Catholic Hall in Rempstone Road. It must have been the coldest night of the year, so I was especially impressed by those who turned out.
 
To my delight, there was a sprinkling of Liberal Democrats, who were there to 'listen to what the opposition had to say'. I was only too pleased to oblige because, if elected, I shall represent everyone, whatever their political persuasion.
 
After an hour or so the meeting ended and we all headed back to the warmth of our homes.
 

 
Wed, 6 Jan
I was up at 0630, expecting to find a carpet of snow outside my window. I was almost disappointed when there was none. Anyway, a quick breakfast and then down to Weymouth to meet three prospective constituents, one at their home and the other two at the Conservative club. 
 
All three voiced similar concerns about where our country is heading. I reassured them as best I could that a win for us would see the serious issues tackled as best as we could. Unfortunately, the pendulum has swung so far one way, it's going to take time and patience to bring it back.
 
At about 1130 the expected snow arrived. But, despite all the warnings, the fall was relatively light and I was able to make it home just in time to watch the news.
 
I watched incredulously as Geoff Hoon was interviewed by one of the BBC's political reporters. Mr Hoon and his colleague Patricia Hewitt were calling for Gordon Brown's head. They want a secret ballot among Labour MPs in an attempt to replace Brown with a more electorate-friendly figure.
 
It's typical of Labour that having made such an appalling mess of our country, they are now trying to dump their leader only months before a general election in an attempt to avoid a meltdown.
 
As I have said in my blog, the Labour fleet is already fatally holed and the rats leaving one sinking ship will find little comfort in another. Maybe now, the whole nation can see what a self indulgent mess Labour really is.
 

 
Tue, 5 Jan
Snow has brought a large part of the country to a standstill. The news reports would make you think the end of the world was nigh. In Norway, they just get on with it. Admittedly, they're more accustomed to the white stuff, but our chaotic approach to inclement weather does tend to show us up a bit.
 
Still, we will battle through no doubt and in the meantime I settled down behind my desk to do a bit of catching up. Several prospective constituents needed help or advice and I am due to visit three more tomorrow in Weymouth.
 

 
Fri, 1 Jan
Can I wish you all a very happy and peaceful New Year. Sitting by a roaring fire in a Norwegian log cabin, with the temperature plunging to minus 20 degrees, was a wonderful way to see in 2010. In addition, we were treated to a free firework display. As is the custom, each household lets fly with an array of pyrotechnics and all we had to do was enjoy the spectacle. So, let's hope 2010 brings us the opportunity for a fresh start when we hopefully beat Labour at the general election. There's a lot to do, but I am confident that with a stout heart, courage and honesty, we can get our country back.