May 2011

Tue, 31 May

It's hard to believe we're almost in June. Where has the year gone? Bank Holidays are a welcome break, although I felt sorry for the millions of motorists as they battled their way through wind, rain and congestion. Let's hope the weather improves so families can enjoy half term.

For me, I returned to my desk until 1300 when I headed down to Weymouth to visit two hospitals.

First stop was West Haven Hospital off Radipole Lane. I was met by the charming Matron there Joy Warren.

What a remarkable lady. We chatted and then did a tour of the hospital, meeting staff and a patient. 

There is a wonderful atmosphere there and everyone carried out their duties quietly and efficiently. The place clearly ran like a well oiled machine and much of that is down to Joy.

Then, it was across the causeway to visit Portland Hospital. It's equally cosy, well run and community based. 

On this occasion I was shown around by the senior sister, Shirley Dow, who I last met on my first visit back in 2008. 

Again, the quiet efficiency of the place is tangible and I was most impressed by all I saw and met. These community hospitals are so important and I do hope that the reforms protect and enhance them.

I was heading home by early evening, totally energized by my visits. We should never take the staff of  the NHS for granted. We owe them a lot.

Fri, 27 May


Worked steadily through the morning on constituency matters before heading to Weymouth.

I first met a businessman who'd lost a security contract after a bigger outfit had seemingly muscled in on the deal.

My constituent's point - and it was a good one - was to inform me of the threat to local businesses from bigger ones from outside the area. 

And with contracts for various activities surrounding the Sailing Games and all the pre events up for grabs, it is vital that local businesses get a look in.

I passed on my concerns to members of the Dorset Olympic Committee, which met shortly afterwards.

And it's at this meeting that one realises just how near the Games are. Closer and closer they loom and many people are working flat out to ensure success.

Gary Fooks in particular deserves much praise for doing a wonderful job co-ordinating a myriad of tasks which would sink a lesser man.

I ended the day back in my office. And with traffic congestion building on all the roads, I was glad I was staying put for yet another Bank Holiday weekend.

Thu, 26 May


A quick visit to the Doc, before heading down to Bovington Middle School to meet its charming head Keith Sutton.

The school's been recently vandalised, with yobs breaking several windows and leaving an appalling mess. 

Fortunately, Keith went into the school on the Sunday and discovered it all, giving him and a team time to clear it up before lessons on Monday. I am very sorry for both Keith and the school. These things are never pleasant.

I understand the police do have some leads, so hopefully the culprits will be caught soon. 

Later in the afternoon I went down to Weymouth to call in on the Reverend Lorraine Dobbins, who is the vicar on Littlemoor. 

Regrettably, the estate, too, has suffered a spate of vandalism, with more than 50 cars damaged by youngsters smashing windscreens late at night.

Over a most welcome cup of coffee, Lorraine, I and one of the area's PCSOs talked this ugly incident through.

Then we visited one of the affected families, who could not have been more charming.  

By the time we were through, I was running late for Weymouth & Portland Borough Council's annual meeting at the Pavilion.

Parking discreetly in the car park behind the theatre, I lept out of my rough clothes and into a suit. 

The theatre was packed with councillors, families and friends and of course the public. The outgoing Mayor, the affable Paul Kimber, then handed over the chain of office to Cllr Graham Winter.

The occasion was interrupted with two amusing songs, speeches and the selection of committee chairmans and deputies.

Then, off for a knees-up in the Ocean Room, which was beautifully organised by Mo Newport, the Mayor's attractive secretary.  

There was the usual politicking as councillors consumed a delicious buffet, with some commenting on the fact that the Conservatives and Labour had teamed up. I do not get involved with this!

A wonderful evening and then home.  

Wed, 25 May


A full day in the office, catching up on a mass of things. President Obama's visit all over the papers, The Times being the most effusive.

My own personal view is that, although I don't agree with the President's politics, he is a clearly a master when it comes to oratory. 

Successfully going after Bin Laden appears to have given him a new confidence, which shone through during his visit.

Both the President and his wife make a powerful package and appear to wow those they meet, from students to Royalty. 

There are many who question this so-called special relationship. But there's no doubt in my mind this relationship IS special and should be. 

If it wasn't for the US, the UK might well have succumbed to the German jackboot and whip, and the history of this island nation would have been very different. 

And, as I've said repeatedly, although the US is not perfect, I'd rather she be the protector of democracy than say China or Russia. Food for thought, perhaps.

Tue, 24 May


Up at sparrows and off into the park. Colder this morning, I noted. 

Getting used to my new office, or should I say broom cupboard! I now have two broom cupboards on Upper Corridor South, which do provide a little more room for my long-suffering office staff.

I had until 1030 to deal with my in-tray before reporting to a committee room for what's known as a Statutory Instrument - a small piece of legislation.

Arriving on time, I found an empty room and soon discovered that I'd been given the wrong time. 

As it turned out this was most fortuitous, as I was replaced by a colleague, allowing me to try and contribute to the debate on Eurozone bail-outs, which I oppose.

A no-nonsense motion had been placed by my colleague Mark Reckless MP, but this was watered down by an amendment from another colleague Chris Heaton Harris.

With the Whips' hands all over it, we still voted for Mark's at the end of the two hour debate. Many of us feel very strongly on this issue and it was shame the government did not support Mark's motion.

What staggers me is that some in the political arena appear not to have noticed that the whole EU experiment lies in ruins across Europe.

I wonder what it takes for our political elite to wake up to the facts.   

In the end, I was not called to speak, although you can see what I intended to say on my website, along with the intervention I made on Mr Heaton Harris.

I finallly let the House at 1900 and set off for home. 

Mon, 23 May


It was Opposition day today, with sentencing and police funding in the frame. I was keen to participate in these two subjects, especially the first, and I put in to speak.

After working through my in-tray, I entered the Chamber as Education Questions ended and heard  the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland deliver a statement on the murder of Rosemany Nelson.

A solicitor, Mrs Nelson was murdered close to her home in Lurgan, County Armagh, on 15 March 1999.

Then the first of two debates began and I waited patiently to be called. Realising that this was not going to happen as time flew by, I intervened instead with a question to one of my colleagues.

I do not agree with the government's proposal to cut sentences by half if criminals plead guilty at the earliest opportunity. This is madness and I abstained from the vote later that night.

A copy of the speech I was not called to make is on my website.

Watching the police funding debate on my television in my office, the Home Secretary held her ground well.

I have to say that I am concerned about the 20 per cent cuts we are implementing. To catch criminals we need police officers and, while too many are sitting behind their desks, efforts to get them on to the streets are to be welcomed.

I just wish we did not target police numbers when the country is facing a dire future. Who knows how much we will need the police to maintain law and order in the face of large disputes, if they occur.

Fri, 20 May

Still no rain. Not good news for us farmers. 

After looking skywards and praying hard, I spent the first part of the morning in my office, working through constituency correspondence.

Just before midday I jumped into my Landrover and headed to Iwerne Minster for lunch with the Bishop of Sherborne, the Rt Rev Dr Graham Kings.

I was joined by three other parliamentary colleagues for a most interesting few hours.

Dr Kings had asked representatives from other denominations who worked in Dorset. We chatted about many things, but the reason we'd been called together was to see how we and they could work closer together for the benefit of our constituents and the area as a whole.

Although those actually attending church have fallen away over the years, there are still millions of Christians and members of other faiths who participate in many areas, often under the radar. 

We learnt alot during our lunch which ended just in time to enable me to reach Portland by 1600.

There I attended to my surgery and caught up with my new assistant Clare Hibbit, who is proving quite excellent.

Clare's role is to link me closer to my constituents, and to make them feel that their concerns are being dealt with here in Dorset, rather than having to call London.   

Thu, 19 May


A busy day. My aim was to visit two schools, meet the crew of the Weymouth lifeboat, and senior members of the Salvation Army. I succeeded, although my timetable was disrupted, as you'd expect.

Constituency matters were first on the menu, before I headed to Frome Valley First School in Crossways, armed with a signed bottle of whisky!

Why, you ask? Well, I was donating it for auction as the school is fund-raising and wanted me to contribute, which I was more than happy to do.

I arrived to find all the children and their parents dancing an Irish jig! If I'd had more time, I'd have joined in, too. 

I found the head, Helen Boyce, who is sadly retiring early due to ill health. She has done a remarkable job and I can only wish her well. 

With plans to return to the school for a visit, I then headed down to Southwell Primary School on Portland to donate a bottle of whisky to them, too. They were also fund-raising.

A brief chat with head Stuart McLeod, before racing off to the lifeboat station. I was late now and, conscious of my speed, made my way steadily to the quayside.

I was met by the charming John Harvey, a former RN officer, who is now the Ops Manager. He'd just made a cuppa when the hooter went off and the volunteer crew materialised from nowhere. 

The Coxswain, Andy Sargent, was at a ceremony in London, so his deputy took the boat out to rescue a motor cruiser with no engine wallowing in the bay. Nothing too serious.

But even in that short time, I witnessed the camaraderie and team spirit that a job such as theirs engenders. The friendly banter, the relaxed and easy relationships all spoke of a well-tuned team ready to put their lives on the line for others. Remarkable people. 

I stayed for an hour to chat to John and learn more about the crew, who Ii'd just seen only fleetingly.

Afterwards, I crossed the bridge and curled round the edge of the marina to the HQs of the Salvation Army.

I was met by Granville Myers and his colleague, who briefed me on their good work. These Christian-based charities amaze me. Volunteers devote their lives to those who are not so fortunate and they and we are indebted to them for this commitment.

After an hour, I left, humbled, and look forward to meeting up with them again.

Wed, 18 May


My run in the park this morning was full of activity. I discovered that the massive arena being erected was a football-based theme park linked to the Champions' League. 

I also saw two enormous drum horses being exercised prior to the Trooping of the Colour, as was one of the carriage teams and their magnificent greys.

I worked steadily through the morning until PMQs and then wandered down for my weekly dose of political boxing!

Mr Miliband came out of his corner attacking the Justice Secretary on comments he'd made during an interview on rape. 

He threw in a punch on a Government proposal to plea bargain a 50 per cent reduction on sentencing if the accused admitted guilt at the earliest opportunity.

Ouch! That hurt. 

This I do not agree with, nor with the assumption that this tactic will result in more convictions.

Taking rape, for example, I don't see why a rapist should have his sentence reduced by half because he coughed up to his heinous crime minutes after the attack. This is absurd.

A rapist should know that if he is found guilty he will go down for a very long time. I appreciate there is huge difficulty in proving rape, but giving them time off for 'good behaviour' post attack will not solve this problem, in my view. 

Then, munching a sandwich, I worked through more constituency matters before heading to Committee Room 16 for the Defra select committee meeting.

We were taking evidence from Jim Paice MP, the affable and well informed agriculture minister, on the dairy industry. 

It was a fascinating two hours or so. During the afternoon and evening we voted on amendments to the Localism Bill, which I support. 

We finished just after 7pm, when I headed home to Dorset.

Tue, 17 May


What an interesting day it turned out to be.

Hyde Park was abuzz with activity as stalls were erected for some big event. I'm afraid I don't know what at this stage.

Maybe on my next run tomorrow morning I should ask. Following an early breakfast with my lovely wife, I was outside the Commons buying my daily papers.

Beside the kiosk sat a Big Issue seller. Knowing that this excellent publication helps those selling it, i stopped to chat.

The man's name was Nick and he used to run a pub before the business collapsed. When I told him who I was and what I did, he laughed out loud.

Then, to my amazement, he said he had been a long serving member of the Labour Party who had helped Lord Knight, my opponent at the last election, during elections in 1997, 2001 and 2005.

A small world, eh!

Then, grabbing a coffee, I worked through until Justice Questions at 1430 in my office. My name was on the Order Paper under Topical Questions which, in simple terms, means you are likely to be called by the Speaker.

I was and I asked the Justice Minister for reassurance that former servicemen and women were not being discriminated against when applying for jobs in the Prison Service.

I asked the question because several sources in the Service indicated to me that this was the case. I'm glad to report the Minister could reassure me that this was not the case.

I then stayed in the Chamber for an intriguing 30 minutes as the Deputy Prime Minister attempted to make a statement on reform of the House of Lords.

Mr Clegg's light has gone out. He appeared tired, exhausted and haunted.

Mr Clegg is not the first politician to tinker with the Second Chamber and he won't be the last. But judging by the anger on both Benches, I have a sneaky feeling this Bill won't see the light of day.

Mr Clegg wants a wholly or partly elected Hosue of Lords on the basis of proportional representation (PR).

I disagree on this point alone. You can't elect one Chamber using first past the post and then adopt PR for the second. In addition, an elected Second Chamber will inevitably lead to clashes between the two places and confuse the electorate.

Personally, I believe people should be appointed to the House of Lords. Their job would be the same; to scrutinise and revise legislation. Those who sit there should have a depth of experience, especially in life. 

Just after 1600, when things were hotting up, I had to leave to chair an All Party Parliamentary Group for London 2012 education meeting.

I was standing in for Richard Ottaway, who had been summoned by the PM, no less.

The meeting had been called to listen to two speakers, talking about the education programme 'Get Set'.

The project's aim is to involve as many schools as possible in the Olympics and already c18,000 of the 30,000 schools across the country have signed up.

MPs heard from Nick Fuller, head of education from Locog, and Derek Peaple, a headteacher from Reading.

It's a innovative idea and I can only urge my colleagues and any school reading my diary to sign up immediately.

I then an meeting with several colleagues over some sandwiches, before voting in the Localism Bill. We voted again on further amendments at 2200 before heading home.

Mon, 16 May

After dealing with a variety of constituency matters, I headed up to London, arriving in time for Defence Questions.

The Secretary of State, Liam Fox MP, has an impressive grip of his portfolio, which cannot be easy to run.

Following questions, Dr Fox made a statement on the Military Covenant. He told the House that the 'principles' were to be enshrined in law, while offering other carrots to the services in areas like council tax and education.

I am inherently nervous of legislation and the armed services. They go together like chalk and cheese.

Now, don't get me wrong, I fully support the covenant and the thinking behind it, but turning it into law could backfire spectacularly.

I talk as a former soldier, who feels a soldier's duty is to do what he is told. I do hope we don't see the day that our armed services, or individuals in it, turn to the courts because they are not satisfied with their rifle, tank or aircraft, for example, on the grounds that the enemy's equipment is superior.

I hope you see where I am coming from.

And, I've always felt that legislation is a very heavy and unwieldy weapon to use when dealing with armed conflict.

Still, Dr Fox reassured me by responding to my question along the lines that he'd thought long and hard about the risk of the courts' involvement in potential disputes and was confident it would not come to that. I hope not.   

After a short session with my Whip, I returned to my office and worked through until the evening.

Fri, 13 May

My eldest son's birthday, so a very special day.

I did not catch up with him until the evening as I was out all day on Portland and then across to Swanage.

In the morning I met up with the delightful Jane Fooks for a update on the Portland Academy. This project is still under wraps, while negotiations continue, so I can't really say any more at the moment.

Today, it took me about 75 minutes to cross over to Swanage. It's not a long way but, as you all know, the roads are not brilliant.

At 1400 I attended my surgery with my new case worker Clare Hibbit, who is a star. Afterwards, I took her on a tour of the town, stopping to meet Cllrs Gary Suttle and Ali Patrick, before dropping in on the railway and the Conservative Club.

Clare had been to the resort before and, indeed, has taken her son on the train. We learnt that the day had been a busy way, with takings well up in the shop. 

Back to the office to work through to the early evening. 

Thu, 12 May


After a run, two croissants and a steaming cup of coffee, I was soon at my desk signing the latest batch of correspondence - some 50 letters.

At 1030, I was in the Chamber for Defra Questions. It's always interesting to listen in as many of the issues we deal with at the select committee spill out on to the floor of the Commons.

During Topical Questions, I lept up and down in an attempt to ask my friend Richard Benyon, the fishing minister, a question.

Richard's been a wonderful ally and I wanted to get his reassurance that fishermen in my constituency are right on his radar as further discussion continues on the Marine Bill.

Then, after a brief session in my office, I set off for Clarence House for a reception that I and other MPs had been asked to.

It was delightful affair and Prince Charles dutifully spoke to us all in his usual, charming way. He is a delightful man and, as I've always said, will make an outstanding King.

Now on a one line Whip, I finished up in the office until 1800 before heading down to South Dorset.

Wed, 11 May

After my morning constitution, I set off to the Commons, to find on my arrival that the newsagent I use regularly was having to move round the corner.

It's one of those outdoor booths and the gentleman who runs it could not be nicer. Over the months, we have struck up quite a rapport and he looks more and more beleaguered as the pavement is ripped up around him.

After working steadily through various papers, I went to the Chamber for PMQs. I have to say that 'Ed' is doing better, although no match for the PM.

After a working lunch, I went to Committee Room 16 for my Defra Select Committee.

Interestingly, it was the turn of the Rural Payments Agency to give evidence. This is the organisation responsible for the single farm payment and does not have a very good record, to put it mildly.

it's new chief executive Mark Grimshaw and Katrina Williams, Defra management committee and director general for the food and farming group, answered questions for two hours.

Mr Grimshaw was confident he could turn his ship around and ensure that farmers received their payments on time. 

At 1730 the PM spoke to the '22 Backbench Committee. What's said in this meeting is confidential, so I'm sorry to disappoint you!

The final vote was at 1900. Returning to my office, I worked through to 2000. 

Tue, 10 May

Up with the larks on a beautiful, sunny morning. Round the park on my run and into the House for a morning dealing with constituency matters.

Treasury Questions started at 1430 and I sat in in the hope of asking a topical question. The government bangs on about helping business, but until we leave the EU and renegotiate a trade agreement - as was originally intended - we shall continue to be hampered by rules and regulations from the EU.

I attempted to ask a question, bouncing up and down like a jack-in-a-box, but sadly to no avail.

Afterwards, I met with Sarah Wootton, a campaigner from Dignity In Dying, an organisation is fighting to allow people to choose death when they are terminally ill.

Clearly, this is a very contentious area and I do sympathise with the cause. Thank God I have never been in the position to witness someone I love very dearly dying in front of me, they asking to be put out of pain and misery, and me not being allowed to help because of the law.  

Worked through until 2200 on constituency matters.

Mon, 9 May

Back to the madhouse!

First up was Home Office questions, followed by an Opposition debate on the proposed NHS reforms.

I have to say that there is an over preponderance of scare stories from Labour and of course a lot of whingeing from the Lib Dems, who signed up to the reforms in the first place.

For them now to turn round and virtually disown the Bill is quite extraordinary, but sadly true to form.

I put in to speak during the three hour debate, but was never going to be called due to a long list of speakers.

So, instead, I retired to my office and began to wade through a bulging in-tray. I worked through to about 2000, before joining my wife for dinner.

Sat, 7 May

With heavy rain forecast, I went to visit more than 3,000 Scouts at a nearby farm with some trepidation.

I found them all at Buddens Farm, located just by East Dorset Golf Club. I have never seen so many youngsters, all charging around from one activity to another.

I was guided around by two senior Scouts, who were charming companions and patiently showed me the layout of their enormous camp.

It was to last for 24 hours, with little sleep for participants and those parents who'd volunteered to stay on and police the event.

It really was most impressive and I take my hat off to the organisation for hosting this jamboree.

Scout leader Bear Grylls was due to fly in by helicopter on Sunday, so everyone was looking forward to meeting the adventurer. I know Bear well and he's the perfect man for the job.

My tour took more than two hours, as I chatted to Scouts and staff. They came from all over Dorset, with sole intent of having fun. 

Fri, 6 May


Before heading down to Weymouth for the borough council count, I got the feedback from Purbeck the night before.

Results continued until 0800! A lot of tired people.

Bill Trite and Mike Pratt did extremely well, holding their wards well. We made significant in-roads into other seats with new candidates, not least Sue Sides, who put the wind up Nigel Dragon in Corfe Castle.

Richard Ley did well in Wool against Lib Dem Simon Goldsach and although he did not win he has cut his teeth and will hopefully be a prominent figure in the future. 

Then, down to the Pavilion for the borough council elections, where we had a lot of new candidates. Due to a string of constituency commitments, I could not stay for long.

My first port of call was a visit to Cefas, the government's laboratory for the environment, fisheries and aquaculture.

What a fascinating place. I was shown around by the chief executive, Dr Richard Judge, Michael Waldock, chief scientific adviser, and Dr Stephen Irving, division director.

They could not have been more charming or more helpful as they explained their scientific world in layman's terms so I could understand!

How fortunate we are to have such a world-leading organisation in our area.

Afterwards, I telephoned the leader of our council, Geoff Petherick, to hear the results. Considering everything, not least the need to make huge savings across the country, our vote had held up well.

We lost one seat, with new candidates doing extremely well in closely-fought wards held by other parties.

Buoyed by the news, I headed off to visit some allotments in Weymouth, where the users were sick and tired of having their sheds vandalised and tools stolen.

How sad that people can behave like this, especially as many of the allotment holders are elderly and vulnerable.

I then attended my surgery at the council offices, before heading towards Portland to meet residents who live near the small roundabout just before you cross the causeway. 

They were complaining how dangerous the layout is and how many of them had narrowly avoided accidents as speeding vehicles from the direction of the island did not slow down at the roundabout.

Finally, I headed back to the Pavilion for the AV referendum count.

Interestingly, the building was all but empty except for the hard-working officials still counting like fury after a busy day.

Our region's results were announced at about 1815 and judging from commentators around the country the NO camp had won, and well. 

The people had spoken, and wisely. The Lib Dems had had an appalling 48 hours and the look on Mr Clegg's face said it all. 

Whether the coalition will now survive is a matter for the future. Just now we can relax, knowing that our well tried and tested electoral system is safe from those who would set our country back and damage our democracy.

Meanwhile, in Scotland the SNP has swept the board, which is deeply humiliating for Labour and potentially dangerous for the Union.

The Party's already pushing for a referendum on independence, which I don't believe the majority of Scots want.

And being a Unionist at heart, I cannot accept that a further break-up of the UK is in anyone's interest.

One to watch.

Thu, 5 May



Election day. There's always a atmosphere of relief on the day as candidates on all sides take a well-earned breather and wait for the verdict of their electorate.

I recall this day last year only too well. I also recall being extremely tired and only realising it when the rushing around ended.

But that's what our democracy is all about; we candidates having to get out there and prove our worth to those who put us in power. I would have it no other way.

I went to vote at about 1000 and of course put a large cross in the NO box on the referendum sheet, quietly praying at the same time that the nation would do likewise.

After tackling the ever-bulging in-tray, I ate an early supper with my Association chairman, before we both went to the Purbeck District Council offfices for the count. 

It was to be a long night, with parish, town and district elections and of course the AV referendum. 

Having chatted to all our candidates and supporters, I headed home at about 0230, leaving the count in my chairman's capable hands. 

Wed, 4 May


I began my day in Swanage, canvassing for Bill Trite. We met outside the Conservative Club, gulped down a quick coffee and then headed out into Bill's ward.

Again, the reaction on the door was most encouraging. Bill's an extremely able and well known local politician, with an uncanny grasp of the issues affecting the town. 

We met up again briefly at lunchtime, before I drove over to Weymouth to support Claire Waghorn there. 

Canvassing with Geoff Petherick, we covered a lot of ground.

Back home in the evening to catch up with a visiting son. Wonderful. 

Tue, 3 May

A busy day, culminating in a visit to my old school, Harrow. 

I had been invited to address the Palmerston Society and accepted readily. I had not been back to Harrow for some years.

I gave my address to about 50 sixth formers, all of whom were studying politics. They listened politely enough, before showering me with questions.

After they'd all filed out, the master in charge asked me how old I thought one attendee was. This tall, youthful figure had stayed behind after the talk and fascinated us all with his view on many topics.

To my surprise it was  revealed he was only 13! I have a feeling we might be seeing him on the political stage one day.

Got home just after midnight. 

Mon, 2 May


The news that the world's leading terrorist is dead I think stunned us all. As the saying goes, you live by the sword then you are likely to die by it.

And so Osama Bin Laden has.

Understandably, there is much rejoicing in America, a country still in deep shock from the Twin Towers' horror.

I admire President Obama for his courageous decision to send in the boys. A lot could have gone wrong and his Presidency would then have hung on a thread.

But the Seals' team did a very professional job, and America's enemy Number One is dead.

Many questions will flow from this operation, not least what did the Pakistanis know about this. It's always been feared that they were shielding Bin Laden and the fact he has living only a short distance away from a military academy in a very distinctive house will only add fuel to the fire.

No doubt the truth will out in time. 

Anyway, with this momentous news ringing in my ears, I set off for Weymouth to campaign with our Wyke Regis candidate Chris Latham. 

Chris is a charming man, who lives on Portland. An aeronautics engineer, he's young and full of energy. Just what the area needs. 

Rain stopped play in the afternoon, as a huge thunderstorm swept in.