July 2011

Thu, 14 Jul

After my early morning constitution (run), I had the immense pleasure of driving to Lulworth and Winfrith First School to actually meet student Marcus Kipling.

The youngster had written to the PM, asking for soldiers like his dad to be paid more. 

The PM replied and do did I. But I wanted to meet this supportive son and I was not disappointed when I did.

Marcus is a bright and very aware young man and we chatted for some time before he took me to meet more of his classmates, who then grilled me for 30 minutes to every subject under the sun.

Then, feeling suitably chastised, I drove across to Weymouth to watch a Squadron of the Royal Tank Regiment march through Weymouth. 

It was a memorable affair, beginning in the Pavilion. We were then driven in buses to the top end of the promenade to watch the 'tankies' march very smartly back to the Pavilion.

Then, it was a chance to chat to them all, as they enjoyed a well earned beer, or two. 

The more I listened, the more in awe of their incredible achievements in Afghanistan I was. These are remarkable young men, who have sacrificed so much for us. It was very humbling.

Sadly, I then had to miss the Dorset Fire and Rescue bravery awards to go to London to visit one of my oldest friends who had had surgery for cancer only two days before.

No one was sure whether he'd survive and, about to head to Norway on holiday, I wanted to see him, possilbly for the last time.

As it was, I was relieved to find him amazingly chirpy and chatty, at least until the drugs made him too sleepy to really communicate, at which point I left.

With a wonderfully supportive family, we all hope he makes it through this ghastly time. 

Wed, 13 Jul

 

After a short spell in the office, I headed down to Weymouth to attend the funeral of one of our long standing supporters Steve Watson.

A touching and intimate service was held in the lovely church St Anne's in Radipole. 

The vicar gave one of the best addresses I've ever heard and the eulogy to Steve by a former shipmate was equally good. 

Afterwards, we all moved to the golf club for some delicious sandwiches and a glass or two of something alcoholic to keep morale up. These events are always sad.

Wigi Watson, Steve's wife, was so dignified and managed what must have been a heartbreaking few hours with huge courage. All our thoughts go out to her.

Then, while my colleagues in London were debating phone hacking and coming to terms with the news that Murdoch had pulled out of his BSkyB bid, I worked steadily through to the early evening. 

Tue, 12 Jul

 

I rose early, enjoyed a long  run and then headed to the Commons.

My first appointment was a small committee meeting, which we are frequently asked to attend by the Whips. They are part of government business and tie up small detail not covered in the Chamber.

After working through the morning, I hosted one of our councillors and his wife at lunch. They'd come up on a visit and I invited them in for a bite to eat. 

In the Chamber, the Public Bodies Bill was debated, and that went on to 2200. Two votes later and we were all heading home. I drove down to Dorset.

Mon, 11 Jul

A cancelled appointment in the morning meant I was able to aim my fire at the ever-present stack of mail in my in-tray.

Later in the day I attended what was one of the most inspirational events I've been to.

The Head of English, Karen Donaldson, had organised an evening of poetry for children at Bovington Middle School.

A germ of an idea went from an idea to an evening of poetry and accompanying book!

I am glad to say that I made it into the book with a poem called A Cautionary Tale ....

The profits from this book will go to Help For Heroes and the school's English Department.

We all had the Tank Museum to thank for providing such an amazing venue. It's not often you read poetry with a squadron of tank barrels pointing at you!

The museum's director, Richard Smith, was there, as was my old friend Nik Wyness, the press officer.

After the reading, I found myself signing endless copies of the book. Having never experienced this sort of thing before, I got my first and probably only taste of literary stardom!

It was a very happy evening and afterwards I headed up to London for a busy Tuesday.

Sat, 9 Jul

The weather held and I had a most enjoyable few hours wandering around the many pitches at the Dorset Seafood Festival in Weymouth.

I met one of the organisers Roger Dalton and he was thrilled at the way it had all gone. 

This sort of event is exactly what the town needs, and the quayside was stuffed with thousands of locals and visitors.

I ended up being kidnapped by the Royal Dorset Sailing Club and enjoying a quiet ale or two with members and one or two councillors. 

They really have revamped the place in real style and with its big windows and high ceiling the atmosphere is quite excellent.  

I have to say that my favourite stand was the model boats. They'd created a large pond where these top class models were being sailed around. The little boy in me!

I must pass on my congratulations to the organisers. A great event and I am already looking forward to next year's.

Fri, 8 Jul

 

An early morning meeting was cancelled at the last minute, so I found myself in the office catching up on a range of issues, not least the future of the library service in Dorset.

At midday I headed down to Portland to visit Southwell Primary School. The head had kindly invited me to address the school at 1330 during their assembly.

So, at the appointed time, I faced c400 attentive little faces and explained as simply as I could what I did in Parliament and down here in the constituency.

A lengthy question and answer session followed, and as always the questions were pertinent and testing!

Eventually, we all got so hot in the small gym that the head called a halt and we all filed out into the fresh air.

I had time to then drive to Weymouth to attend my regular surgery. Again, so many deserving cases and I will of course do all I can to help them.

In the meantime, the phone hacking story gets bigger and bigger. I really is a disgrace what was done and there is no excuse for hacking into people's phones, whoever they may be.

I suspect the net will widen as the guilty take others down with them. That's normally the way in these matters, and I for one shall not be shedding any tears.

Popped into hospital in the evening to have some stitches out. I did survive!

Thu, 7 Jul

 

After my morning indulgence, I was in my office working on constituency correspondence, articles for the local paper and arranging my diary for the days ahead.

The News of the World phone hacking scandal has exploded, with more and more allegations being made public.

There is a general feeling of revulsion as we learnt that widows of the Iraq War might well have been targeted too. Quite extraordinary.

Yesterday's emergency debate was intriguing and one I sat in for an hour or so. Accusations went right to the top of News Corporation and it the Prime Minister announced there will be a public inquiry and possibly more than one.

The day flew past and I managed to leave the office in the early evening having cleared the backlog. 

On the way home, I pulled over to contribute to Weymouth's new radio station Spirit FM. 

This is a most innovative idea and is run by young people from Weymouth College. I was interviewed by the delightful Catherine Belado, an impressive reporter at the Dorset Echo. 

We talked about the week-long festival on-going in the town and what a tremendous success it had been so far.

Over the weekend, the organisers were laying on a Seafood Festival, which I intent to visit on Saturday. Just what the town needs.

Wed, 6 Jul

With weather forecasters predicting a low and rain, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself running in brilliant sunshine this morning.

I was in the Commons early, to discover that Labour had called an Emergency Debate on the phone hacking scandal.

As a former journalist myself, I will be surprised if all these allegations are true, although there's an awful lot of smoke.

It's a great shame that a few ruin it for the majority, like so often in life. The journalists I worked with for 17 years were honourable people, doing a professional and worthy job, without fear or favour.

I don't like this gutter press and I suppose if you live by the sword then you are likely to end up impaled on it at some point.

Tue, 5 Jul

Up at 0630 and soon around the park on my daily jaunt. London has a completely different character at this time of the morning and one I wish it would keep during the day!

After a welcome coffee with my daughter, I was soon in the House and attending to constituency matters.

The day continued in that vein, with one of our volunteers joining us from Dorset to see how the place works.

The main debate was the final day of the Finance Bill. I abstained when it came to voting for this carbon tax, which I and several others believe will damage the UK's industry and competitiveness.

We all want to reduce carbon but not at the expense of the nation's future wealth and prosperity. The green dream is to blame, although I support developments to release us from our reliance on fossil fuels. But let's develop these alternatives first before we sleepwalk into la-la land.

The debate on the Finance Bill went on 2200, when we all headed home.

Mon, 4 Jul

Headed up to London on a beautiful sunny day. The week got under way with defence questions.

Tragically, we learnt that a British soldier had gone missing in Afghanistan. At this stage, we were not told any more than that, although later in the day the soldier's body was found. I can only imagine the horror this has brought for his family and friends, and my heart goes out to them.

I attempted to ask the Defence Secretary a question, but was not called.

After listening to Andrew Lansley make a statement on reform of social care, I went back up to my office and worked through until late in the evening.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge receiving a lot of excellent press coverage on their tour of Canada. They deserve it. Well done them. 

Fri, 1 Jul

After my morning jog through the countryside, it was time to head down to Portland to meet the new governor of HMP YOI.

Russ Trent, a former Royal Marine, was one very impressive gentleman. He's been in the service for only nine years, but is already a governor, and so he should be.

After a private chat with him, he took me to an adjacent office to meet his senior managers. I was most impressed with them all.

I sensed a cohesive team, working in innovative ways to not only ensure prisoners are punished but also to rebuild their lives in the hope that when they leave they do not return.

Russ is a man I can do business with and I was most impressed by everything I heard. I am confident the prison officers will follow a man like this and I will do all I can to help as well.