July 2009

Thu, 30 Jul
I found this prospective constituent down a windy, narrow lane. The house he'd built himself and he was clearly proud of his achievement, telling me the nine months it took to renovate were the happiest in his life. So, why did I meet this interesting man at his remote cottage? The answer is simple: he asked me to.
 
He had a lot to get off his chest, not least the 'sadness' he felt at the way the current government continued to destroy our country. There were many other issues, including education, defence and welfare, but all of them had a common theme - destruction. I am meeting many people like this gentleman, who are genuinely concerned about the state of our country.
Labour has done its worst and the consequences are for all to see. I have never known such a destructive government in my lifetime, of that I am certain.
 
Everything so many of us hold dear has been torn up and dumped in a bin marked 'conservatism'. Labour would have you believe this is progress, indeed President (as I call him) Blair boasted he'd destroy conservatism in one of his first speeches after winning the 1997 election. But New Labour, its deceit, its spin, its mediocrity and its emptiness, has brought our country to her knees. She will rise again because I believe the majority of people want her to. Come the election - and the sooner, the better - I call on the whole nation to rise as one and sweep this contemptible government out. The alternative does not bear thinking about.
 
Then, brimming with renewed anger, I set out to Weymouth to meet more prospective constituents. Accompanied by the ever-loyal Olive Carroll, we knocked on many doors and were welcomed at most. We came across several issues, which I shall try and resolve. One in particular was rather poignant. A charming gentleman we met told us he had cancer and was in the main wheelchair-bound. He expressed concern at access, commenting particularly on garden hedges which tend to grow out over the pavement. Of course, able bodied people can navigate their way round, but those in wheelchairs cannot. I have asked one of our councillors to look at this problem. We had a lucrative time, chatting on the doorstep and enjoying a rare glimpse of the sun!
 

 
Wed, 29 Jul
Well done the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy for getting the Distinction for Accessibility 2009 award.
The judges were the International Paralympic Committee and the International Association for Sports and Leisure facilities no less. High praise indeed.
 
I am feeling so sorry for all the holidaymakers who've poured into our beautiful part of the world to be met by one of the most miserable summers we've had. Last year was bad, but this is not much better. The good news, I suppose, is that local attractions based indoors must be seeing a huge rise in ticket sales. Cinemas and the Tank Museum spring to mind. But beach-based businesses must be almost washed away. Nationally, the government's shattered reputation sinks lower as it challenges the amount of compensation it should give to two wounded servicemen. I mentioned this in yesterday's diary entry, but it's so depressing and outrageous I think it's worth mentioning again.
 

 
Tue, 28 Jul
More depressing news from the front line. This time it's reported that our troops are having to fight for compensation if and when they are injured. Naturally, there's an outcry from all corners of the UK and we are left wondering how much lower this government can sink.
 
This issue has come to the fore because the government has gone to the High Court to try and cut the compensation to two wounded servicemen. Yes, this does sound extraordinary and appalling, but it's true. Having been a soldier and seen friends injured in the Falklands War, I know that recovery from horrific injuries comes in many phases. The point is we as a nation have a duty of care to our troops to see them through the whole of their recovery whatever the consequences and cost.
Yes, they volunteered, that's true, but WE sent them to Afghanistan to do OUR bidding, so it is our duty to ensure the injured get the best treatment that money can buy.
 
And, while on military matters, I spent a couple of hours with a former Royal Navy Captain this morning, who was concerned at our defence capabilities and future spending plans. He believes that Labour has sold our armed services short, but is equally worried we the Conservatives might be tempted to cut expenditure in the face of our economic plight. He wants spending to rise from its current 2.75% of GDP to c5% at least. I agree, and go further. We face troubled times. In fact, I think we are living in one of the most dangerous periods since World War Two. Russia, China and India are re-arming at an alarming rate, North Korea and Iran continue to defy the West as they strive to become nuclear powers, the latter crushing its own people in the process, the race for resources under both ice caps increases tensions between superpowers, drought, flood and famine are encouraging millions of people to seek a better life elsewhere, world population growth is threatening stability, and terrorism continues to flower as free countries try to combat it.
 
So, in my view, now is the time to increase defence spending, and by a lot. There are many benefits which I have frequently referred to in my BLOG. I also believe we should introduce a third force, again a subject I have touched on many times in the past. I'm glad to say that the Captain was very supportive on this idea, but thought that our armed services should be enlarged first. Quite apart from all the obvious advantages of such a force, it would help tackle so many of our current social ills.
A significant number - not all my any means - of our young today do not understand what self esteem and respect are. I believe the problem is getting worse and has gone to the point almost of no return. Generation after generation is learning to survive of the State, which is too willing to provide. And if parents and schools cannot instil what is needed, then perhaps a third force could. Let me explain further. The core of this force would be manned most probably by ex service personnel and volunteers. However, youngsters who find themselves before the magistrates for anti social behaviour would be 'sentenced' to a term with this force, rather than fined, given community punishments or, in the worse cases, jailed. Clearly, serious crimes like murder and rape would only attract a jail sentence.
 
However, for those have committed serious crimes, they'd be offered a period of time in this third force prior to their release. This would help them back into society and fill the void which currently faces young offenders when they come out of prison.
I know an organisation like this does not come cheap. But, I can't believe it's any more expensive than the growing welfare bill and dependence on the State. My idea would pay itself back in the longer term, of that there's no doubt, while picking up a lost generation and giving them guidance and hope. From my experience with young people, especially those who have lost their way, it takes very little to give them a chance in life. All they need is discipline, structure, leadership and inspiration. I say all they need, because a significant minority in this country oppose such views as extremist, right wing and generally bad news.
You only have to look around to see what the alternatives lead to: chaos! There is hope out there. We just have to grab it and execute it.
 

 
Sun, 26 Jul
I was saddened to read yesterday's Dorset Echo and the all too familiar report on yobbish behaviour. This time it was on Portland, where a spate of violence has led to plans for more CCTV cameras on the island. While I welcome moves to combat this menace, I can't help thinking these intrusive cameras admit defeat.
 
As I understand it, it wasn't that long ago that there were about 13 full time police officers on the island, operating 24 hours a day from the former police station. That reassuring presence has now dropped to drive-by patrols, supported by PCSOs, who do a wonderul job, but are not police officers in the true sense of the word. The minority criminal element clearly exploit weakness and while CCTV will go some way to help, it will not solve the problem, which inevitably moves to places which do not have this coverage. The immediate answer is simple: tougher sentencing and more police officers. The former demands more prison places, the latter more government investment. Once these are in place, we can tackle the longer term problems of unemployment, deprivation, education and family cohesion. I have already laid out my ideas for a third force in Wednesday's diary entry and this accompanied by my points above will begin to tackle this era of expecting something for nothing, and lack of respect and discipline.
 

 
Sat, 25 Jul
The start of Swanage Carnival Week, so where better to go than our attractive, seaside town. With the sun shining at last, I wandered the streets getting names for our petition. If you recall my colleague Nick King and I started one recently calling for more money for education in Dorset. It was not difficult to find willing signatories.
 
While collecting signatures, I headed to towards carnival HQs to meet organisers and stall holders. It wasn't long before I was deep in conversation with the secretary, Linda Welsh. What a fabulous lady, whose persistence has brought the Red Arrows back into the programme after another event they were attending was cancelled. I met several other organisers, including the vice chairman, Chris Tomes. His enthusiasm was most infectious and clearly he's had a big hand in organising the week.
With plenty of holiday makers, sun and sea, I was sure the week - and certainly the start of it - would be a resounding success. My fingers are crossed for the carnival procession tomorrow afternoon.
 
It was great to see Swanage alive and buzzing, with its full potential on show to the thousands of visitors thronging the beach and town centre. Due to other commitments, I could not stay to enjoy the Red Arrows, who I knew would put on another spectular and visual display. Well done the organisers!
 

 
Fri, 24 Jul
Oh dear, more yobbish behaviour. This time a cowardly attack on a frail pensioner who had her handbag stolen while she was putting her mobility scooter into her garage. My heart went out to Noreen Bailey and I decided to go and see her myself. I finally tracked her down in her cosy house in the Park District. She was watching telly with her husband Leonard. The door was firmly locked, clearly both of them seriously unsettled by this brutish robbery. The police have not arrested the culprit yet, but hopefully they will soon.
 
Was it money for drugs, or just money that was the lure? Whatever the reason, it's so sad that anyone has to resort to attacking a frail, old lady to get what they can't earn like all the rest of have to. Before meeting Noreen, I was out in Weymouth meeting the electorate and enjoying many interesting conversations. Our win in Norwich soon came through on the door which gave us added impetus. It is time for a change and time for us as a Party to stand up and lead properly, without fear or favour. The nation is calling out for it.
 

Wed, 22 Jul
I was appalled, as I'm sure you all were, to read in the local paper about the desecration of the war memorial in Wyke Regis. Vandals had apparently targeted the bonze plaques. Meanwhile, on the adjacent page, I read how mindless idiots had smashed memorial vases at Weymouth crematorium. One can only imagine how the bereaved are feeling. There is no doubt in mind that behaviour of this type is more common today, due to a whole raft of reasons. Respect and discipline are two words which no longer exist in our vocabulary and the consequences are there for all to see. So, what to do? I have mentioned this before, so let me remind you. I believe we should introduce a third force, whose duty would be to protect our borders on land, sea and air.
 
The force would be run on a similar basis to the armed services. Inevitably, the core volunteers would be former Services. Youngsters who break the rules - and I'm not talking about serious offences like murder and rape - would be 'sentenced' to a term of years with this force. If they didn't shape up, they would then be sent to jail. Similarly, those who commit more serious offences, would then do a stint in this third force towards the end of their sentence. Again, if they did not play ball, it's back to jail they go.
 
What so many youngsters need, and sadly don't get today, is structure, discipline, someone to look up to and above all encouragement and hope. This is not a dig at teachers, who do a wonderful job and are already expected to act as parents, social workers, doctors, psychologists and the rest. But somehow this lack of discipline and self respect has eaten its way into the hearts of so many of our communities and it's time we did something about it rather than just talk. My idea would indeed be costly, but the pay back from such an initiative would, I believe, more than compensate for such an outlay, and help give many of the next generation a sense of duty and service.  And, talking of duty, I attended a party in the evening to say au revoir to our secretary, who is off to the Middle East with her husband. Ulrika has done us proud, especially as working in a political office is not easy!
 
She will be missed and we all drank her health and wished them both well. We now have a new secretary, who I met, strangely, only weeks ago while out campaigning during the county council elections. So, we look forward to getting to know her as she settles into the job.
 

 
Tue, 21 Jul
Where's our summer gone? It's a little depressing all this rain, although personally I love rain. There's something reinvigorating about it. Still, a wee bit more sun would be appreciated by all, I'm sure.
 
Our wonderful armed services are in the news again, and for the same reason: lack of kit, especially helicopters. This is a fact and will inevitably lead to more casualties as troops are forced to go by road, which is easy to mine or ambush. Whether you agree with this war in Afghanistan or not, our troops need the right equipment and plenty of it. In my years in the army, we operated more often than not on a shoe-string. In fact the British army prides itself on this point. But when young men and women are having to risk their lives due a shortage of something as basic as a helicopter, then something's wrong.
 
This Government, and certainly ours if we are form it after the next election, must commit the cash necessary for our troops to operate professionally and competently in the environment they are in - wherever that may be. And as MPs stand down over the summer, who is left to fight for these extra helicopters? My own view is that when we have troops fighting abroad, the war must be debated in the House at least once a month. Committing our nation to war is a politician's greatest responsibility. I see a distinct lack of it with this present government.
 


Mon 20 Jul
Time with one's children, especially as they grow up so fast, is the most important thing. So I can report I had the most wonderful break with all four of them and am back at my desk, with an in-tray that's overflowing. There are several letters and emails from prospective constituents, some needing a little love and attention, others raising important political points.
 
One lady was appalled at the state of a cemetery in Weymouth and I'm glad to say that that problem has been resolved. I would also like to add that the council official I corresponded with could not have been more honest and helpful. A big thank you to him.
 
Another lady got stuck in a lift got stuck in a lift during their son's wedding and I'm working on that problem to try and accommodate a difference between the two sides. I'm happy to report that the hotel in question is not in South Dorset, just in case you were wondering!
 
I am still hopeful that I and others can achieve a speed restriction on the A31 near my home after the fatal crash at the end of last month. We are awaiting further comments from the Highways Agency.
 

Fri, 3 Jul
The Rt Hon John Redwood MP arrived at our family home bang on time this morning, having left his home at some unearthly hour. I have heard John speak once before, but I've never actually met him. I was most impressed. He is a very intelligent and capable man. He spoke to about 100 businessmen for half an hour without notes. What he had to say was eminently sensible and why he is not on the shadow front bench I have no idea.
 
John then answered questions for nearly an hour and unusually for politicians he made a point of answering every one specifically. His breadth of knowledge is awe inspiring and he confidently answered each and every query without hesitation. It is vital, if we are elected, that we remove the yoke off businesses and let them do what they do best; create jobs and wealth. John's narrative encouraged all those listening and we now have to make sure we can do something about it by winning the next general election.

Thu, 2 Jul
I had the greatest pleasure playing in a fundraising golf tournament at Weymouth Golf Club. It was organised by one of our supporters and has turned into an annual event. This was my first appearance and although I love golf I don't play nearly enough to be consistent. However, on arrival I booked in with our charming host and his wife and then went promptly to the practice tee.
 
A basket of balls later and I was ready to go. I joined my two partners, both businessmen and both charming. Obviously, good friends, they ribbed each other all the way round. A team photo taken by our hostess and then we were off. Except for the odd good shot, I played like a drain, letting my two partners now badly.
 
Fortunately, they were the forgiving types and we had a fun and chatty round, coming in about two over par. We learned later at the post match dinner that we'd won the booby prize for our efforts! Still, can't win them all. I met a range of my host's friends, all from the town, who could not have been more fun. Some diehards were still partying as I left quite late to get some sleep before John Redwood's visit the next day. What a fun day and what a great way to raise funds! I thoroughly recommend it.
 

 
Wed, 1 Jul
With the hot spell well and truly settled in over the county, I headed to Corfe Castle to launch a campaign for fairer funding for Dorset's schools. We are treated outrageously by this Government, with our local education authority (LEA) ranked 127th our of 149 authorities across the country. To be fair, perhaps, this inbalance has been historical, but it has to stop and soon.
 
The consequences for our schools, teachers and children will be disastrous if more funding is not available. Why this situation's been allowed to fester like this for so long, I don't really know. Arriving at Corfe Castle First School, we were met by the charming headmaster Nigel Beckett. We've met on several occasions and I was immediately impressed by his determination and dedication. I'd already heard several complimentary comments about Nigel on my travels. A photographer from the local paper kindly attended and my colleague from the adjacent seat Nick King and I posed for the proverbial picture, with Nigel squashed in the middle.
 
Nick and I have 18 schools in Purbeck which are being reviewed at the moment by the LEA and some of the proposals are very controversial. This shortfall of 1,000 children is a hard pill to swallow and I, Nick and cour councillors are working hard to ensure we try and get the best for our youngsters. There are now plans to consult further with schools in Swanage and Wool, which I am relieved about. Hopefully, a compromise can be found and a sensible plan hatched. I said goodbye to Nigel, before setting off to visit the other schools in my prospective patch. They are all now going to gather as many signatures as they can and I and Nick shall take them up to No 10.
 
But that's not the end of it. If elected, I shall fight tooth and nail for fairer funding for us down here in Dorset. After a whirlwind tour of the schools, I headed down to Portland to visit the Royal Manor Arts College. I wanted to meet two special ladies, Mandy Lister and Sam McCusker, who run the applied vocational learning centre. I'd been tipped of about them by the college's librarian, Lisa Kelly. Between them, they cater for about 30 students who need a little extra help. By sheer chance, three of them came round and I was soon listening to their stories. Clearly, they think the world of Mandy and Sam and I could see why. The two ladies are infectious optimists and I was soon in their spell. Then, the students disappeared and I was left chatting to them both for some time. It was a most useful visit for me and very educational. We agreed to try and get the children out on my Kids to Farm Project this autumn, so that's something for the diary.
 
I left feeling energised. People like Mandy and Sam are very special and punch far above their weight. Their charges are indeed fortunate to have two such caring people gunning for them.