June 2009

Sat, 27 Jun
This was a full day in every sense of the word! It began at a fundraising sausage sizzle in Osmington, where a pre school from Preston was raising funds. Because its former accommodation is closing, it is moving temporarily to the hall at Osmington, which is very smart and comfortable.
 
Attendance was high, with everyone keen to raise as much money as possible. With the smell of cooking sausages, and my mouth watering, I could not resist a banger and of course some ketchup. But while I was munching away, I was told in no uncertain terms by the cook - a Tracey Barnes - that my sausage was a Morrison sausage, and not one of 'theirs'. Inquiring further, I discovered Tracey and her parents, Anne and Brian, run a small farming business in Preston. They produce their own bangers, some of which they'd donated to the event. Sadly I never got to taste one, but I do have their address now!
While we were all milling about, a watch from Weymouth fire station arrived, and very soon children were crawling all over the pump. The firefighters were brilliant, as always. Patience and manners personified.
 
Then, it was off to the pub, but not to knock back a pint, which would have been most welcome at this point. I wanted to catch the landlord Nigel Turnbull, to wish him well after his unfortunate fire a few days before. The lure of the great game then called and I retired to home to watch a memorable match between South Africa and the Lions. We lost - just - and in the dying seconds. But what courage we showed against a far bigger side physically and a vicious side to boot. Eye gouging appears to be part of their tactics! Rested, but desolate the Lions had lost, I popped into the tail end of a successful event in Wool, which had raised money for the hall. The organiser told me that hundreds of people had attended the afternoon fair and they were pleased the way it had all gone.
 
I helped move some heavy items back into the hall, before moving on to a fundraising event at a supporter's lovely home outside Wool. The weather was kind and the 70-odd guests had the most wonderful view of the hills on the army ranges in the distance. Our hosts could not have been kinder and the evening was a great success. 
 

Wed, 24 Jun
I had a message to call a lady in Weymouth. It was one of these mystery messages where you don't know who you are calling or why. I called the number and this delightful lady answered the phone. Once we'd dealt with all the pleasantries, she explained she'd been visiting her husband's grave at the Westham cemetery.
 
She'd been appalled at the condition it was in and was wondering if I could help. Well, of course I could, and I've despatched a letter to the Bereavement Manager - a great title - to inquire whether this matter could be looked at. I'm awaiting a reply.
 

 
Tue, 23 Jun
A stranger came to call today. An author no less, from America, although she now lives in Dorset with her husband, who's of Irish descent. The lady is writing a book on her village and wanted to interview me with a view to adding some of my comments. Baffled, I answered her questions on immigration, the economy and my family history, all the time wondering what any of this had to do with her village! No doubt time will tell, as she promised she'd reveal what she intended to published before the book went to print.
 
I have to say she was a charming, intelligent lady and I much enjoyed meeting her. In the evening I attended a meeting of our Portland branch in the local Conservative Club. The branch's new chairman, Paul Dunn, did the introductions before we discussed what the island needed. The meeting was open to anyone and there were one or two faces none of us recognised.
But that was the idea. We're an open church and the more people we can attract from all walks of life the better. You don't have to be a Conservative to debate with us. And, if I get my job, I shall be representing everyone, whatever their views or political affiliations.
 

Mon, 22 Jun
Quite rightly the government has decided to introduce an armed forces' event, which will commemorate the sheer professionalism and courage of the brave men and women serving our nation around the world. I have to say that although I welcome this recognition by Labour, I can't help but think it's a cynical ploy designed to grab headlines. My point is is if Labour had been really concerned about our troops this recognition would have come an awful lot sooner.
 
However, bearing this in mind, I attended the raising of the armed forces' flag at county hall in the morning. A small group of dignitaries, including the Lord Lieutenant Mrs Anthony Pitt-Rivers, witnessed the event and short speeches were made.
The public were absent from this parade, but some council staff came to watch as our troops were appropriately commemorated. I wish our commitment in Afghanistan was debated more in the House of Commons. The silence is deafening. I suspect one reason for this is because Labour is concentrating in staying in power, rather than doing its duty for the nation.
 

 
Sat, 20 Jun
Little did I realise, as I headed to a garden party in Preston, that I'd be dancing in public! The event, to raise money for four halls in the area, was packed. It takes place in the local vicar's garden, courtesy of the Reverend Tim West. Dressed in a white, floppy hat, and wearing a yellow top, he was easy to spot. When I caught up with him, he was keeping an eye on the bouncy castle.
 
I asked why he and several others were wearing yellow tops. For a full answer I was sent to Curate Daile Wilshere who's Queen Bee - my nickname - of the Community Angels. This organisation is fabulous, with volunteers helping the local community in a number of tasks, like visiting an elderly person, taking someone shopping or just chatting to them in their home. Throughout the event, acts of all descriptions took to the small stage at the top of the garden. And just when I thought it was safe to buy an ice cream, I felt the dreaded hand on my shoulder. Ushered on to the dance floor, I hopped, skipped and darted inbetween other dancers during a lengthy country routine, whose origins I'm not sure of.
 
I survived, and while grabbing a cup of tea, which I thought I deserved, was told in no uncertain terms that my effort warranted a score of 4! Oh, dear. Room for improvement, then. I left after some time with Elton John on stage, belting out one of his popular hits. No, not the real Elton, but a very good impersonator.
 

 
Fri, 19 Jun
Another shadow minister dropped into South Dorset today. Mark Simmonds MP is partly responsible for health and he's also been charged by David Cameron to look at seaside towns. With time at a minimum, and another commitment in neighbouring Bournemouth, I took Mark to Swanage. We had a most interesting and informative tour of the town's cosy, cottage hospital.
Matron Jane Williams and area manager Deirdre Selwin - herself the former matron - gave Mark a short briefing on the hospital and its roles. While this was going on, we tucked into one of the most delicious coffee cakes I've ever eaten.
Apparently, we had head chef Clare Thompson to thank for that and I'd love to have the recipe. It was sooo good!
Naturally, we touched on the minor injuries unit's out of hours service, which is currently being covered by a paramedic. Mark raised hopes by saying that we would be looking at expanding services in local hospitals, so residents did not have to travel such long distances, with all the stress that that entails.
 
After being treated like kings, we moved on to the Conservative Club, where we were met most warmly by president Clifford Churchill, vice chairman Graham Dack and secretary Maggie Wadeson. Mark talked to two of our councillors and one former councillor about the challenges facing Swanage. Clearly, if we can get some money for the town in the future that would be welcomed all round, I'm sure.
 
Time had then run out and Mark headed off to meet up with a colleague in Bournemouth, but not before I'd asked him to pass on one or two messages to head office!
 

 
Thu, 18 Jun
The number of calls and letters continue to poor in. They're often from people who feel alone and need help. Others are more blunt. Only yesterday a gentleman rang in and demanded: "Are you a Mason?"
 
"No," I replied.
 
"Good," was the answer. I then discovered he was a supporter and was just checking! Another prospective constituent I am helping got stuck in a hotel lift and is in the middle of a rather heated debate with the said hotel.  And there's a mum who wants to know why the Swanage Hospital could not cope with a small incident with her son, who was sent to Poole.
 
The inquiries are many and varied and I do my best to help, advise and support. And on that note, I went to see a supporter in Weymouth this morning. She wanted some help with some business which her husband was involved in. Morning coffee consisted of cake, strawberries and biscuits. I've never seen such a spread at 1030am and could not resist the biscuits and fruit! Such kindness. And, then, in the evening I attended a fundraising dinner in Purbeck. It was booked out and we all enjoyed a wonderful evening in our host's beautiful garden, eating a scrummy dinner and looking out over the sea.
 
At the end of the evening, I addressed our supporters, who were all quietly optimistic that the wind was blowing more and more in our direction. There's no doubt it is time for a change, as Labour blunders from one calamity to another.
I told the audience I was outraged Mr Brown had announced that the inquiry into the Iraq war was to be held in private. I call on the Government to change its mind and hold it in public. I suspect the political fall out from a public inquiry would bury Labour for years. Let's not forget the 'sexed up' documents and the non existent weapons of mass destruction, which Tony Blair claimed could be wheeled out and fired in our direction within 45 minutes. 
 
Labour has a lot to answer for, not least to the families, relatives and friends of those who were killed. Courage and integrity are two characteristics Labour has never had and this attempt of a cover up is an insult to the nation.
 

Wed, 17 Jun
A trip to Bovington Camp is always fun. This evening I attended the annual Beating to Quarters at the officers' mess.
For the second year running, the weather preventing the musical parade from taking part outside. But, in true army style, the show went on, and the band of the Blues and Royals played a number of scores from military to cinema inside instead.
It was a happy evening, with a huge number of guests from all walks of life. Smart mess kits mingled with suits and dresses in a sea of colour and conversation.
 
I met an old army friend Barney White-Spunner, who is now a general. It only seems like yesterday we were larking about as young officers, fit and carefree. Things are a little more serious now. Still penty of humour, though! We were all made to feel very much at home at what is a fun and special event.
 

Mon, 15 Jun
Today, I was soundly thrashed at ping pong. What, you say? Yes, ping pong, and my adversaries were in the main elderly.
I met Joe Gadston canvassing in Swanage and we soon struck up a rapport. An former professional footballer, Joe is a doer and is driven by a desire to help and inspire people. And this he does in abundance.
 
He runs a football club for youngsters and this ping pong tournament for pensioners, which takes place twice a week. He invited me to attend, so to the football club I went. And what fun it was. I played with most people there and was shown on more than one occasion how to play the game properly. Many there told me this initiative had totally reinvigorated their lives, bringing new friendships and fun into their retirement. Joe is a man of action and he does what he says. The effect is extraordinary and brings joy and contentment to many.
 

Sun, 14 Jun
Veterans' Day. And what a day it turned out to be. Thousands attended the special occasion in Weymouth this morning, which started with a Remembrance Service on the promenade.
 
I spoke to several veterans and many of them had come a long distance to commemorate their comrades and to meet up with old friends. One of them was Simon Weston OBE, the former Welsh Guard who was horribly burnt in the Falklands War.
He told me he attends many parades like today's. He has a wonderful sense of humour and after we parted I watched as he quietly made his way through the throng of people, chatting to a person here and someone else there. His modesty shone through and I marvelled at his courage and tenacity. Following the service, Dorset's Lord Lieutenant, Mrs Anthony Pitt-Rivers, took the salute with great dignity and a sense of occasion. The veterans responded, marching past in great style and pride.
 
Then it was the turn of the Cadets, followed by a vast range of military vehicles from World War Two. All too quickly the parade was over and another year past for these brave men and women who come on this annual pilgrimage, reminding us all that we must never forget them. Being so hot, we decided to pop into the Conservative Club to quench our thirst. Olive Carroll had gallantly stood for most of the parade and a sit down was needed. In the club we joined one of our councillors and his wife, before South Dorset's former MP Ian Bruce came in with his wife, Hazel, for lunch. We all agreed the parade had gone well, the weather had been kind and the veterans had enjoyed themselves. 
 

Sat, 13 Jun
The Queen's Birthday Parade and a very special day. I was able to watch a bit of the Trooping the Colour on the television and the parade still sends shivers down my spine as wonderful memories flood back. I took part in two Troops and it's something you do not forget. Marching past your Sovereign in slow and quick time, with that wonderful music playing, is the greatest honour. And just to remind viewers that today's parade was full of 'real' soldiers, not just those in colourful uniforms, the programme went live to Afghanistan on several occasions to interview soldiers from the Welsh Guards, who Trooped the Colour last year.
 
Public Duties is one of many commitments for the Household Division, which is proud of its heritage and links with the Monarchy. Later in the afternoon I attended the wedding of one of our farm team. It was a very happy affair, with a live band and hog roast. This member of the team has been here for more than 30 years, so the event had special significance for me.
The bridegroom also has a wonderful sense of humour and he presented me with a T-shirt with the word 'Guv' emblazoned on both sides. I was requested to wear it on my daily runs, which of course I shall do with great pride.
 
And, then, it was on to my Godson's 21st party, which rolled on into the early hours. It was an especially poignant event as my Godson's father died very prematurely of a heart attack on New Year's Day. So, we all pretended he was really there, which of course he was. Life is never easy, but then what sort of people would we all be if it was.
 

 
Thu, 11 Jun
They say the sun shines on the righteous, so how appropriate it should have its hat on for the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh when they visited Dorset today. And what a start to their day. The National Sailing Academy looked immaculate as the royal couple drove on to the hard standing to rapturous applause from hundreds of well wishers.
 
After meeting all the dignitaries near the sea front, the Queen and Prince Phillip walked towards the Academy, passing schoolchildren and young sailors, the latter attired in wet suits and life jackets. Inside the Academy, we'd been organised into groups of about eight. The Queen went down one side of the room, the Duke the other. It was a very special occasion and it's not often you get the chance to meet personally both the Monarch and her husband.
 
Then, all too quickly, their duty done, they walked back down to the cheering crowds and to a plaque commemorating their visit which was unveiled by Her Majesty. The next move was appropriate for a former Royal Navy officer, as they boarded a large Sunseeker and motored around to Weymouth harbour to meet local residents and well wishers. We were all left basking in the glow of their visit, eating delicious sandwiches and realising once again how lucky we are to have a Royal Family and especially a Queen of such presence, dignity and grace. God Bless her and long may she reign.
 
As the evening drew on, I was in my office when my mobile phone rang. A young voice explained she was a friend of the young man who died in yesterday's terrible car crash on the A31. With her voice full of grief, she asked what she and her friends could do to support my call for a 50mph speed limit on that part of the A31. She'd heard my comments on BBC South Today last night. I reassured her that I would be writing to the authorities to see if a speed reduction was possible. I urged her to write too. There have been 14 accidents in the past 16 months where cars have ended up going through our wall. And although the circumstances of each accident are different, speed appears to be a common factor in most. Surely be reducing the speed limit on this dangerous stretch of road more lives will be saved and less people will have to experience the agony of dealing with the consequences of these ghastly crashes.
 

 
Wed, 10 Jun
A phone call at the beginning of the day alerted me to another accident on the A31. A few moments later, the police helicopter appeared and I knew the morning was going to deteriorate as news of an appalling crash began to filter around the Estate.
 
I immediately set off to the crash site to see if there was anything we could do to help. Leaving my clerk of works by Stag Gate, I walked up the road to the crash itself. By this time the air ambulance had arrived and a score of medics and firefighters were fighting to save lives and cut people out of two cars. Both vehicles were unrecognisable. As I spoke to one of the police officers, an elderly lady was stretchered away to a waiting ambulance. I glimpsed another casualty trapped in his car. Clearly, the professionals had everything under control and, as always, were doing a wonderful job in the most trying circumstances.
Leaving my clerk of works at Stag Gate in case the emergency services needed anything, I set off for Weymouth for a pre-arranged appointment. I met the men behind the idea of sinking a wreck off our coastline to boost both the diving business and the local economy. It's a good idea and I fully support it. I only hope all the hoops can be clambered through to bring it to fruition. Let's hope so.
 

Tue, 9 Jun
A busy day ended with one of those memorable events which stay with you all your life. My parents hosted a dinner for one of our recently retired foresters and some of his colleagues. This gentleman had worked here at Charborough for a staggering 38 years, as I've mentioned earlier in my diary. He came to us from the Queen Mary, where he'd been a waiter. Little did he, or we, know at the time that he'd never leave!
 
The dinner was a resounding success, with many memories being recalled over a few glasses of wine. This man is special and we all miss him enormously already. But life does not stand still and after all these years working in all conditions, he deserves a peaceful and contented retirement.
 

Mon, 8 Jun
The results of the Euro elections are most encouraging for us. We did well in the South West, with two Conservative MEPs winning seats. I have little faith in European bureaucracy, but while we remain in Europe under the current system, it is important we have a stronger voice there.
 
My vision is to have a free trade agreement with Europe, along the same lines as Norway. I just cannot see how 27 countries can possibly agree to do anything along the same lines. We are all as individual as each other, and that's what should be celebrated. I want to trade with Europe, but I'm fed up at being told what to do by Europe.
 

Sun, 7 Jun
With our tails up, I headed down for a fundraising breakfast with the leader of Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, Mike Goodman. It was well attended and morale was high following our success at the county council elections. Our thanks to both Helen and Mike who laid on a wonderful spread.
 

 
Sat, 6 Jun
A famous day. Sixty five years ago, thousands of men landed on the beaches of Normandy on their first step to victory over the Nazis. Rightly, the Press is covering the commemorations over in France, where men now in their nineties are remembering their friends and colleagues who fell for our freedom.
 
An absent Queen caused a lot of disquiet among the veterans, who feel she should have been there. It seems she was not asked, with the French president wishing to hog the highlight with the American president instead. A say day. Our Queen is held in higher esteem than any politician and our wonderful veterans missed her.
 

Fri, 5 Jun
The big day dawned and I was up early to vote, before heading down to Weymouth for the count. Arriving at the Pavilion, I found that no one really knew what was going to happen. Had the electorate bothered after all the revelations in the expenses' row was one thought.
 
The count took a little longer this year as the enormous Euro ballot paper was separated from the smaller county council slip. The candidates were all clearly on edge, as was to be expected. However, from about midday the results began to be announced. I am delighted to say that we made three gains and congratulations must go to Councillors Ian Munro, Nigel Reed and Andy Cooke. Commiserations to the others, especially South Dorset's former MP Ian Bruce who made large in-roads into the sitting Lib Dem's vote.
 
It's the first time we've had Conservative county councillors in Weymouth for many years and I am delighted with result.
During the morning I was able to visit Sunseeker at Osprey Quay. What a fascinating visit that was. It's not often you can look into the cavernous rear end of these beasts before they're completed. I spoke to several staff working on a 100 foot yacht and they were quite obviously very proud of their work.
 
What's even better news is that about 90 per cent of the staff come from the local area. Sunseeker is just the sort of employer we need in South Dorset. If elected, I shall be fighting with many others to attract more. Then, it was over to Purbeck to catch the results there. Councillor Bill Trite held one seat brilliantly, as did Councillor Mike Lovell, whose vote increased. Very impressive. Regrettably, Malcolm Shakesby lost his seat to the Lib Dems, with four re-counts needed before the final result was confirmed. Nerve racking for the two candidates!
 
It was then a race to my office to send out a press release, before attending a fundraising drinks party in Stoborough. A successful day and a good omen for the future, although nothing is taken for granted.
 

 
Thu, 4 Jun
Today is the day. I was up at the crack of dawn and went straight to my polling station to vote. Afterwards, it was down to Weymouth to attend a community meeting which included the police and local authority.
 
Sadly, the meeting had to concentrate on a minority of mindless idiots who bring the town's name into disrepute. The night time economy generates millions of pounds a year for Weymouth, but it's a question of how this benefit is managed when a minority are prepared to behave in a thoroughly anti-social way. I believe in zero tolerance. As prospective legislators, we now need to look at ways of ensuring the police and local authorities have the powers to deal with trouble-makers. That's in addition, of course, to putting more police officers on the streets.
 
At midday, I then travelled out of my prospective patch to Tarrant Rushton airfield to attend a special commemoration. I'd been looking forward to this ever since I'd been invited to it some months ago. As a former soldier, I love military history, especially when events like this one bring it to life. Sixty five years ago, Major John Howard and his men took off from Tarrant Rushton airfield on the now famous glider-borne raid on Pegasus Bridge.
 
Their mission was simple: to take and hold the bridge until relieved. The bridge was vital as it was feared that any German counter attack following the D Day landings would have to use it to get at the troops struggling off the beaches. So, today, this audacious raid was commemorated at the airfield with an open air service and fly past by a Spitfire, Hurricane and Dakota. In addition, more than 100 runners set off to run the 60-odd miles to the bridge itself in France.
 
Having crossed the Channel by ferry, they will all muster at a pre-arranged RV just short of the bridge, before reaching their target at two minutes past midnight on 6 June - just like the gallant men did before them. Meanwhile, back at the airfield, I met one of the few survivors of this remarkable raid, former Sgt Tich Rayner. He's now 90, but while he may not be quite as fit as he was 65 years ago, there's nothing wrong with his mind. He recalled how they shot at a German tank with a Piat, an anti-tank weapon which he says was accurate to only 50 yards. This one shot may have saved many thousands of lives, as the Germans did not try and cross the bridge again, fearing it was held in strength. Therefore, the feared counter attack from the east never materialised and the rest is history. What an afternoon and a reminder, if ever one was needed, of the incredible courage and sacrifice made by all those men 65 years ago.
 

 
Wed, 3 Jun
Only one day to go before the polls open and the fate of our county council candidates is known. Ian James was in buoyant mood as I joined him on the campaign trail. He, too, is quietly confident he will win his division. I hope so as he is an excellent candidate, dedicated and ready to do his best for his electorate.
 

 
Tue, 2 Jun
This morning I popped into St John's CE Primary School. I was welcomed most warmly by headteacher Diana Mason and particularly enjoyed catching up with the children who had visited my farm recently. They are all looking forward to the Queen's visit next week. I think some of them may even be there to welcome her. St John's is a wonderful school, with a dedicated head and staff. I was most impressed.
 

 
Mon, 1 Jun
Still scorching as I hit the streets again with Nigel Reed. His vast experience at local politics comes shining through as we work the street. The reception is warm and friendly and we hope this translates to victory in a few days' time.