March 2009

Thu, 26 Mar
Our yearly fundraiser at the Knoll House Hotel was, as always, a most entertaining affair. Our hosts Michael Ferguson and his lovely wife Claire put on a wonderful evening, with delicious eats. It was a most generous do, where the branch's new chairman was sworn in, if that's the right description. Again, morale was high and the blood was up. The sooner we get rid of this Labour shower the better. Let battle commence!
My pile of correspondence from prospective constituents grows ever bigger. The calls for help or support are many and varied and I deal with them as best I can. There's certainly never a dull moment.

Wed, 25 Mar
Up at the crack of dawn to visit the 4th BN The Rifles training in Wales prior to their departure to Afghanistan. The BN is commanded by Lt Col Rupert Jones MBE, the son of the famous Colonel H VC. Col Rupert, like his father, is most impressive and dynamic. The BN is in good hands. As always, I was in awe of of the soldiers and their wonderful down-to-earth pragmatism. The BN was a most impressive unit, commanded by one the of army's high-fliers. I know they will acquit themselves well in Afghanistan. We owe them a huge debt and if anyone reading this wants to help, then please go to the front page of our website, click on marathon and follow the instructions to donate. I'd be most grateful, as would the families of the injured.

Tue, 24 Mar
Today I was in Weymouth, meeting the good people of the town and having a most interesting time talking to those I met. The credit crunch is foremost in people's minds and there's a lot of anger at both the bankers and this Government. Of course, that rosy relationship has now gone sour, but only because Gordon's wealth generators have tucked into too much apple pie and ice cream, and he didn't smack their hands soon enough and say, "Naughty boys!"

Mon, 23 Mar
With the morning sun just beginning to penetrate my jumper, I hopped into my car and drove to Winfrith. I was soon pulling up outside the first school, tucked away in the village. I'd met the delightful headteacher Sharon Buckland some months ago on another visit to their Lulworth site.
So, I was not surprised to find a cosy and spotless school, with a lovely warm atmosphere and happy children. There's something about those little, innocent faces which tempt you to be just a little naughty and tease them. I got a very energetic high-five from one child, who took it to new heights a few minutes later when we passed in the corridor! Sharon and I chatted away over a cup of coffee and it was good to hear all their positive news. Village schools like this one are vital to our rural inheritance and we must treasure them if we can.

Sat, 21 Mar
It's that time of year - the Association's AGM! Again it was well attended, with one of our MEP candidates Julie Girling making a guest appearance. Morale among the troops was high and there's a wonderful feeling that the Conservatives will win the general election when Gordon Brown decides to call it. My feeling is he will wait to the last moment. He hasn't come all this way to hand over the PM's crown any sooner that he has to.

Fri, 20 Mar
What a pleasure it was to welcome South Dorset's former MP back to the patch. Lord Salisbury came to speak to our supper club in Weymouth. An experienced politician and elder statesman, we knew we'd get an interesting talk, and we did.
Lord Salisbury now lives at his family seat Hatfield House and we were hugely honoured to have him drop in for dinner. As you can imagine, the event was well attended and no one left disappointed.

Tue, 17 Mar
What a stunning day. And what a view as you drive over the hill on the way to Weymouth and Portland. I was on my way to visit Jane Hurdiss, the headteacher at Grove Infant School. She's a dynamic lady, who is working hard on regenerating a feel of community on the island. She's already working closely with the Governor of the YOI, who is doing his best to contribute to the community. He has some excellent facilities, for example.
Jane's very much a proactive person and her face lights up when she talks about the Portland Academy project which could revolutionize education on the island. Let's hope the money's there, because the state of our economy looks dire.
Jane's been working hard on a summer fair in July, which I can only advise everyone to note in their diary. Knowing Jane, it will quite an affair.

Mon, 16 Mar
It seems you either love Tesco or you hate it. It's their awesome size and power which upsets a lot of people, who feel the supermarket giant can virtually get away with murder. And so it is with many people on Portland which awaits the arrival of a large store behind Easton. Admittedly, the green light has yet to be given, but the retailers I met last night feel it's a done deal. I chaired a meeting organised by Colin Jamieson, the area head of the Federation of Small Businesses. About 50 people gathered in the Methodist Church Hall to voice their concerns, not least the loss of several small businesses which they feel will simply not be able to compete.
I do sympathise with their plight and of course the plight of those who live around Easton Gardens, which will become in effect one big roundabout with a children's play area in the middle. The fight not to have the store will be won or lost on planning grounds alone. Emotion is not a reason to refuse such an application. But the protesters are aware of this and are preparing their three minute statements when the application is heard on 1 April.

Sun, 15 Mar
Again, the sun came out and Martin Cree's house was bathed in spring sunshine. He had kindly organised a drinks party in order for members of the Owermoigne branch to meet me, two of our MEP candidates and the area's county councillor.
It was a well attended and happy event and all thanks must go to Martin and his wife Ann.

Sat, 14 Mar
A few days in the white stuff is just the ticket. That mountain air and light is so beautiful and recharges the batteries. It really is a case of just breathing in and letting go. Anyway, back to reality today with a stroll round Swanage town with the Mayor, Councillor Mike Pratt. We chatted to many people, all enjoying the sun and that first warmth of spring.
Near lunchtime we visited the Conservative Club, which was busy. The atmosphere in there is always welcoming. I especially enjoyed talking to an elderly gentleman who'd served in the Rifle Brigade during the war. Bolt upright and smart, he was the epitome of a fine and brave soldier.

Wed, 4 Mar
News has come through that Dorset County Council has achieved Beacon Status for its work towards the Olympic and Paralympic Games' legacy. Well done them. Too often these local authorities are lambasted from pillar to post, so it's good to hear this welcome news.

Tue, 3 Mar
Spring is upon us; at least I thought it was until the rain and wind swept in today. And what better place to experience the good old British gale than on the top of Portland! I was asked to speak at a meeting of the Portland Community Partnership (PCP), which has been running for nine years, held at the Heights Hotel. Local businessman Phil Laming, a man of impressive stature, is the chairman and he hosted the evening.
Many organisations from the island were represented and after talking about my experiences as a political candidate, I listened to a number of speakers, ranging from the Governor of the YOI, to a headteacher. The PCP is a non political organisation, which is attempting to inspire islanders to do more for themselves. That's not to say that a lot of effort by many faceless people already goes on, but the PCP hopes to gather all the community spirit into one united group and then promote its ideas and hopes for the improvement of all. It was an invigorating and fasinating evening. And all praise must be heaped on Phil and his team.