May 2009

Sat, 30 May
The weekend was upon us in a blur and two of my children joined me for half term. With my partner's sister and her son over here from Norway, I enjoyed that precious time you have with your children while they're still young enough not to want to be elsewhere!

Fri, 29 May
With the weather getting hotter and hotter, canvassing is a good way of working up a rather nice tan! It's certainly better than rain, with all those wet, sticky leaflets and running canvass sheets. Today I was out supporting David Crowhurst in Crossways, where again we got a warm reception. The feedback on the doorstep was most encouraging.

Thu, 28 May
Today, I was out again with South Dorset's former MP Ian Bruce. He has worked hard to win his division and he is hoping to do just that. Certainly, voters recognise Ian and many were very complimentary to him. It will be good to have Ian back in politics again, with all his experience and knowledge of the area.

Wed, 27 May
I joined Nigel Reed as he continued his canvassing campaign for next week's county council elections. With the expenses' row very much in people's minds, we expected to meet a few sceptical voters. But I was encouraged when most, although angry with sitting MPs, do not apportion blame on us. In fact, many we spoke to were very supportive and, contrary to press reports, were definitely going to vote.

Tue, 26 May
I was reminded today how important our manufacturing base is in this country when I visited Universal Engineering on the Granby Industrial Estate in Weymouth. After an interesting briefing, I was given a tour of the plant and met many of the workforce. One young man from the town was an apprentice, who was about to complete his training after four long years. There were two others, apparently, who I did not meet, but I was most encouraged to hear that local people were being recruited for such highly skilled work.
I believe, passionately, in the apprenticeship scheme and hope most sincerely that we will widen it out across the country should we win power. Labour's aim to push 50% of youngsters into university is in my view totally unrealistic. Thousands are being turned away from tertiary education because there is no money for them. And quite apart from the financial implications, many of these young people would do far better to enter the work place. If ever there was a good cause for public funds, I believe the apprenticeship is one. We need common sense, not social engineering, to rejuvenate this country and its manufacturing base.

Mon, 25 May
The forecast was not encouraging as I drove down to Weymouth to attend a very special parade to commemorate the American war dead. Fortunately, about thirty minutes before the parade was due to begin, the sun began to fight its way through the cloud. This was a relief to those attending Memorial Day, as last year they were all virtually blown away. Memorial Day in America is what Remembrance Sunday is to us here. And a handful of people gathered around the American memorial on the seafront at 10.45am. One of the attendees was a Mrs Shipman, whose husband was a Ranger and is a survivor from the D Day landings 65 years ago.
Regrettably, due to ill health he could not attend this year, but Mrs Shipman laid a wreath on his behalf. It was a touching moment and an important reminder of the thousands of American lives lost on D Day and in the subsequent battles that followed. Also attending was the Mayor of Weymouth and Portland, Councillor Anne Kenwood, and Lynwood Newman, who served in the American airforce for 20 years before settling in Weymouth in 1976. A bugler played the Star Spangled Banner, while a solitary standard bearer lowered his standard. It was a small but poignant parade and I wondered why the event had not been better publicised. We owe the Americans a lot and I hope next year a few more people will pay their respects to those who died for us and for our freedom.

Sat, 23 May
The sun kept its hat on as I drove down into Swanage to join Bill Trite on the campaign trail. The beach was packed, a steam engine hissed and puffed in the station and the streets were full of shoppers and tourists. A perfect Bank Holiday setting.

Fri, 22 May
I met a charming supporter and his wife this morning. The couple are going to host an event for us at their lovely home. He's been in business all his life and our hour-long chat ranged across a number of topics, not least MPs' expenses. Then, it was on to join Malcolm Shakesby, another county council candidate, for some canvassing in Wool. We finished off the day with a well earned pint!

Thu, 21 May
A sad day. We said goodbye to one of our staff, who has worked in the forestry department for 38 years! It is a remarkable achievement and he is a remarkable man. His retirement is richly deserved after a lifetime working in the elements. We can only wish him, his lovely wife and their family peace, contentment and happiness in the years ahead.

Wed, 20 May
On a lovely, sunny afternoon county council candidate Andy Cooke and I canvassed in Littlemoor. Concerns here mirrored those expressed elsewhere in the constituency. And, of course, residents are having to cope with the on-going work on the relief road. Not easy for them all. I do hope Andy wins this division. A hard working businessman and local, he will make a superb county councillor.

Tue, 19 May
On the hoof again, this time with David Crowhurst, a veteran at Dorset County Council who's going for re-selection on 4 June. Again, the feedback from people on the door at Crossways was most encouraging. UKIP crops up occasionally, but only because many of the electorate believe the major parties are not listening to them. Add the expenses' scandal to the brew, and you've got some angry people who want to give the major parties a kick up the backside.
We can't afford to, nor should we, ignore the people of this country. It's time for honest debate on many issues which this country faces. Later in morning, I came home to officially open the farm's new grain store. The plaque was unveiled by the wife of a former employee, who was to have carried out the task, but sadly died prematurely due to ill health.

Sun, 17 May
It was up to Buckinghamshire to see my Godson Confirmed. There were 60 candidates and understandably the memorable service took a little while to conduct. Two of the 60 were first Baptised and were suitably annointed in the time-honoured way, although a handful of water on the head is received by a teenager a little differently to that of a child!

Sat, 16 May
Today, I was in esteemed company. I joined South Dorset's former MP Ian Bruce, who's standing as a county council candidate. We canvassed in Preston, where we were received favourably. Not everyone believes the end of our democratic system is nigh, although a healthy scepticism is apparent.

Thu, 14 May
Following on from our very successful Kids to Farm day, the headteacher at Bovington First School had invited me to attend assembly to receive some feedback from the children who came. This school really is fabulous, led from the top by headteacher Juliet Muir, who is a most impressive lady. After a cup of coffee, she kindly led me round the various classrooms to meet all the children. And what a bunch of rascals they are!
I was soon engaged in all kinds of conversations, ranging from artificial insemination to the Queen. How about that for a broad spectrum? At 2.30pm we went into the assembly hall and there they all were, ready and waiting for the presentation. The class who'd come on the farm visit then told the story of their visit to all their young colleagues. With slides and background music, Sir Alan Sugar would have been proud. Lots of potential apprentices here. The event was very moving and I thanked the children, saying how we'd all enjoyed the day as much as they had. Then the mums and dads arrived and Juliet's young charges were off like a shot. Another day over in the history of this lovely school.

Wed, 13 May
My son's birthday. So, a very special day. And on this special day the Royal Forestry Society came to call, but not in a political capacity! The society organises visits to woods and it was our turn to host one. For me, the highlight of the day came at 4pm when five of my foresters received long service medals from the society's president, John Besant.
The five have clocked up a remarkable 187 years here. Sadly, one is due to retire next week after 38 years service. He is a character in the true sense of the word, and we shall all miss him horribly.

Tue, 12 May
We learnt that our shadow minister for culture, media and sport Jeremy Hunt had cancelled his visit. No doubt the current furore over expenses was the culprit. It's another day of revelations and more MPs are thrown into the spotlight by the Daily Telegraph. No doubt, careers are being ruined on a daily basis now, and it probably won't be long before some cases are being investigated by the police. As people on the streets are telling me, had they behaved in a way similar to some MPs, they'd be charged.
So, instead of hosting Mr Hunt, I visited St George's Primary School on Portland. As always, I received a very warm welcome, a cup of coffee and a chat with the school's excellent head Trevor Jameson and his deputy Jo Luxon. Debate here is inevitably refreshing, honest and interesting. An hour later I joined Nigel Reed, one of our country council candidates, for some canvassing. With the expenses' debacle top of the agenda, we were not expecting too much enthusiasm for politicians, even aspiring ones, on the door.
However, we were delightfully surprised to find many friendly faces, who did not link us at all to what was going on up in London.

Mon, 11 May
I was saddened to read about the violence in Weymouth over the weekend in today's Echo. Inevitably it's drink related as young men pour pint after pint down their throats on these Friday and Saturday night binge drinking outings. I know the police and publicans are working together to try and tackle this problem, but at the end of the day if someone wants to get drunk and cause problems there's not much anyone can do to stop them.
Personally, I'd like to see far tougher sentencing on these drinkers who turn violent and cause mayhem. Few, if any, respect the law today, leaving the poor police officer at a terrible disadvantage and with one hand tied behind his back.
I'd also like to see more officers on the beat, but this is something our Party must look at as a matter of priority should we be elected.

Sat, 9 May
I stared in horror at my Daily Telegraph. For there, over nine pages, was a litany of abuse and greed. Yes, all these MPs have stayed within the letter of the law, but they've broken the spirit of it, again and again. What they've also done is to destroy what little faith people have in our faltering political system. And I discovered this when I strolled the streets of Swanage in the morning. The people are angry; very angry, and rightly so.
It is not only time for a change of government, but it's time for this country to take a real good look in the mirror. The pendulum has gone far enough, I believe. Let's start by sorting out this mess in what was the most respected democracy in the world. My view was shared by those I met on the doorstep, many of whom wanted MPs who have shamelessly exploited the system to resign. Sadly, honour appears to have largely evaporated among our political elite today and I doubt we'll see any of them falling on their swords. That will be up to the electorate come the next general election.

Thu, 7 May
With county council elections in the air, I found myself heading to Winfrith to meet up with one of our candidates Malcolm Shakesby. He's a great campaigner and is not shy in coming forward. A charismatic former merchant seaman, Malcolm's out to win his seat.
We were soon chatting with a local farmer and the banter flowed between the two men. As we laughed and talked, I realised once again just how lucky we all are for living in our beautiful county. Later in the afternoon, I drove down to Weymouth for a range of political commitments.

Bank Holiday weekend
Children are a wonderful blessing and as they grow older and begin to spread their wings you appreciate the time spent with them more and more. This weekend I had all four of my children under the same roof for one memorable evening, before they headed off to meet their various commitments.
I keep remembering the words spoken by a distraught father at the funeral of his little boy, who'd died prematurely through ill health. At the end of his address, he looked up at a packed church in Sturminster Marshall, and told us never to forget to tell our children how much we love them.