Thursday, 24 December 2009

The Great Debates

So, three debates with the three party leaders has been agreed, with ITV, BBC and Sky hosting one each. Will this benefit democracy? I would suggest that this depends on the format, and on a presenter who is able to press home a question, regardless of where the question or subject came from. If there is an element of cross examination that will delve below the soundbites dreamed up in advance by political staffers, we could really get some interesting debate around policy and values. If however we end up with a superficial bun fight with cheap point scoring the only aim then we will be missing a great opportunity to enliven our politics.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Out and About

I spent much of today checking out various issues and discussing them with campaigners. Diane and Tony over in Staines have been consulting residents on the new CPZ proposals (controlled parking zones), and I came to see the problems for myself. I then went to Ashford to the hospital and the college, the youth centre and a school in Sunbury with Ian, and met Richard, Lawrence and Caroline in Charlton village to talk about the proposals that Surrey have put forward for the waste and recycling centre. It was a really good day keeping up to date across the constituency with a range of key issues. It is really heartening to see Lib Dems across Spelthorne working so hard to listen to local people and represent their concerns. We really do work hard and get things done. Next up I think will be Stanwell and Moor, Shepperton and Green, plus Littleton and Laleham. I know there is plenty to tackle there too!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The Slow Death of ID Cards

This weekend the Chancellor suggested that ID cards are not needed. Today the Home Office insists voluntary cards will continue. A trial in Manchester has seen just 1000 people sign up. Where does this leave us? Well it leaves this pointless scheme sucking up more money whilst Labour fight behind the scenes about whether it is more embarrasing to let it limp on until after the election, or whether to cut it dead now and lose face. As soon as it became clear that this dreadful project was not going to be compulsory (hooray!), it was obvious that it would fail. Their is no appetite for ID cards in the UK, and this Governments desire to curb our civil lberties over and over had chewed another pill to big and bitter to swallow. Please can we stop wasting yet more cash on this doomed white elephant!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Regime Change

So, Tony Blair has admitted that he would have removed Saddam Hussein regardless of the situation on WMD. Given that he was told before the order was given to attack that there was no imminent threat, I am not in the bit surprised. If Blair was the former leader of an Arab or African power there would be an international clamour for his indictment as a war criminal. As he is the former British premier there is a deafening silence. His continuing presence on the world stage is damaging to Britain and our already tarnished image on the world stage.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Bingo and Boilers

I am still trying to work out what Chancellor Darling is trying to achieve with his Pre Budget Report today. It looks like a strange mish mash of proposals which don't tackle the heart of the deficit and upset the maximum number of people. Then there is the bingo tax reduction which is just bizarre! One thing is for certain, Mr Darling is avoiding the real pain that we will all have to take when measures need to be taken to cut deep into the budget black hole. Only he has put it off until after the election. He seems to be counting on voters not having a grasp of how painful this has to be, and there may be some truth in that. But the stuff unveiled today is incoherent and ill conceived. As Vince said today of the windfall tax on bankers bonuses, it is unenforceable. So, a feeble budget from a Government running on fumes. National Insurance rises? No attempt at fairness at all.....

Sunday, 6 December 2009

The Wave


Yesterday I joined thousands of other on The Wave - the climate change march in London. The Lib Dems had a sizeable contingent there to show our long standing and on-going commitment to tackling the changes in the earths climate that will affect all of us (and already are). Our leader Nick Clegg was there to lead us off, and others like Susan Kramer, Simon Hughes and local MEP Catherine Bearder were there too. One of the great things on a day like that is the sense of common purpose, and with groups as diverse as Christian Aid and the RSPB marching side by side, you get a real sense of how much will there is to say positive changes in our society that will help mitigate against dangerous new weather patterns, and protect our environment. Now it is up to the Governement to deliver at the Copenhagen climate summit and beyond. I fear that any future Labour and Tory Government does not have the will our the support in their own ranks to do what needs to be done. Liberal Democrats have been campaigning for our environment for 30 years and are as committed as ever. Gordon Brown has been talking tough on this issue this week. But just weeks before his party voted down Lib Dem proposals for Parliament to join the 10:10 campaign, designed for organisations to commit to a 10% reduction in carbon emmissions next year. Every major city run by a Lib Dem administration (Bristol, Newcastle, Liverpool, Hull, Sheffield to name a few) has signed up to the campaign and has planned how to do it. Labour and the Tories have refused in many places, including Spelthorne. Until these dinosaurs start walking the walk, rather than just talking the talk, then they may end up going the same way as the previous dinosaurs that once roamed the earth.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Which is it David?

Since becoming leader of the opposition, David Cameron has been trying deperately to portray the Tory party as fervant eco warriors. Windmills, huskies and chauffeured bags were followed by think tank ideas being floated as possible furure policy and then quietly dropped. Now Tory MEP's have shown their true colours. Last week in the European Parliament two Tory MEPs, Daniel Hannan and Roger Helmer, voted against a motion calling for the Copenhagen talks to agree an 80 per cent cut in emissions by 2050. The Tories then tabled amendments to prevent EU funding to help developing countries tackle climate change. ( see here for more on this: http://spelthornelibdems.org.uk/news/000119/green_or_a_deeper_shade_of_blue.html ).
Whilst it may be that Cameron is sincere in his wish to improve the environment, it is increasingly clear that the rest of his party is not.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Lib Dems on Tax

Yesterday the Lib Dems published our plans on taxation for the 2010 General Election. The introduction of a levy on £2m homes, changes to the taxes on avaition, high value pensions tax relief reduction, changes to capital gains tax and tax avoidance measures were proposed yesterday, in order to raise the basic tax free income allowance to £10,000. Most of the media coverage yesterday spent a lot of time on the 'mansion tax' to be levied on homes, although this raises just 10% of the money required to raise the allowance. The proposals would take 4 million of the least well off out of the tax system on earnings. These people at the moment pay the largest proportion of their income on tax. The wealthiest in the UK pay the smallest proportion. This is clearly very unfair. The Lib Dem plans are an attempt to introduce more fairness into the tax system, and start to even up the levels of tax people pay across society. No doubt there will be vested interests who complain long and loud about us attacking the rich. It will no doubt be the same people who are quite happy with the unfairness we have right now.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

College Campaign Gathers Support

I have spent the morning out in support of the Save Ashford Further Education campaign, which is demonstrating today outside the college site. The amount of tooting from the passing motorists was a clear indication of the support of local people. I was introduced to Freddie and Stephen, two of the students currently both doing IT courses at the college. Talking to them was a real insight into what the college provides for these young people. Freddie told me that he had been ill during his GCSE's and had not got the grades he was looking for. Rather than give up, he got himself onto a foundation course at the college, and having completed that he is now working to get a National Diploma, and has ambitions to go on and get a degree. Stephen told me that he had not enjoyed school, as he felt he was being forced to work on subjects he didn't enjoy. As a result he didn't get any GCSE's. He joined his friend on the foundation course, and found that he could really get stuck into something he really enjoys, and is loving his time at the college. Both of them are clear that this has given them opportunities they would otherwise have missed, and both are optimistic and ambitious for the future. To take this opportunity away from teenagers like them would be disastrous for them and the wider community. It's not just young people that are doing A levels and vocational work at the college. There is a lot of adult education going on too at the site. I had one story from a shop owner on the high street about her mum, who is 79, who attends a course there, and it is her opportunity each week to socialise. I was in the shop as I was asked by Tina, who started the campaign, to take sheets of petitions to the local shops all along the high street and surrounds. Colin Strong, our group leader on the council, and I went to florists, banks, estate agents, a sweet shop, and many many more to ask if they would put the petition out for customers. Every one we went to took leaflets or petitions. No-one said no. Everyone seemed to have a story about the college, staff and customers alike, and they were overwhelmingly positive about the impact the college has on the town. This is a vital part of the community. All of us need to do what we can to save it!
(sign the petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/sfeashfd/petition.html )

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

WMD?

So, the Iraq inquiry has barely begun, and already we are told that the Government had intelligence reports that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction. 10 days later we went to war on the premise that we were stopping the deployment of these weapons. I did not think that we would get this sort of detail this early, but sadly I am not surprised that Tony Blair had had this sort of intel in advance of invasion. I am in no doubt there will be many serious pieces of information uncovered in this inquiry, although I am not so sure it will be as full and frank as we need it to be. What we do know is that the Labour Government sent our troops into combat under false pretences.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Save Ashford Further Education

I have signed an online petition earlier today set up to demand that Lord Mandelson honours the funding promise to Brooklands College. The petition can be found here : http://www.petitiononline.com/sfeashfd/ . The proposed closure robs Spelthorne of proper provision of education. It is clear from the petition comments alone that pupils, parents and staff are devastated. The Learning and Skills Council has a lot to answer for in this. They must look again at the funding for the college.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Bus Services

Surrey County Council have begun a consultation on the future of bus services in the County. The first place under review is the area including Spelthorne. After an initial look at the proposals, bus services in the borough will be very hard hit. The bus service is a vital lifeline for the elderly and vulnerable who have no alternative mode of transport. They rely on them to reach doctors, shops, libraries and many other essential services. To see that a service serving Ashford hospital is under threat is astonishing. Many of the other proposed cuts seem to hit Spelthorne hard. It is true that the subsidy paid by the County Council is a significant slice of the available resources. These buses are though, for many, a lifeline. Go to www.surreycc.gov.uk/busreview to find out more, and to have your say. Your local Lib Dem councillors and campaigners would like to hear from you to. Please get in touch with your views. Email me at mark@spelthornelibdems.org.uk or your local contact (see www.spelthornelibdems.org.uk ).

Sunday, 22 November 2009

One Poll Does Not A Hung Parliament Bring

A Mori poll in the Observer today has shrunk the Tory lead to just 6%, with a poll rating of just 37%. Andrew Rawnsley and others have seized on this as signs of a hung parliament at the next election. With the huge swing the Tories need to get an overall majority, that is not without its merits. However, with many months left before the election, I remain to be convinced. For a hung parliament, we will certainly need to see a strengthening of support for the Labour government, which is certainly not evident in Spelthorne. The voters that gave them a clutch of seats in the late 90's have long deserted them, ans recent election results show them to be dead in the water. So I remain sceptical of the prospects of a hung parliament at the moment, until we have more than a single poll as evidence. What I am sure of, is that the election in Spelthorne will be a straight fight between the Tories and the Lib Dems. Labour can't win here.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

3D TV

Channel 4 have been experimenting with 3D TV in the last week, and it is fascinating stuff. We are told that there is a viewing revolution just around the corner, both in TV and in the cinema. I know a lot of people who are scoffing at the idea, after the various failed attempts of the past. By complete chance I was talking to one of the guys that created the 3D effects for Channel 4 last night. After half and hour chatting to him about what's around the corner, I am amazed at how far this technology has come. He convinced me that in 10 years it will be common place. He also told me a snippet of info about 3D in TV for next year. It's very exciting, but I'm sworn to secrecy! (No really!)

The Queens Speech

Or, The Battles Labour Wants To Fight, as it could be called. Gordon Brown was laying some ugly bear traps for David Cameron, only it looks like he forgot to even cover them in grass and leaves, they are so obvious. Most of the legislation laid out today will be laid out again in a black suit when Parliament is dissolved, as most of these bills will end up 'dead' as it is succinctly known. There is very little actual Parliamentary time left before the General Election has to be called. So we will have just have to live with the tired Labour Governement shouting "You don't have any policies except savage cuts" at the Tories, whilst they respond with "You're tired, out of ideas and wrecked the world economy single handed". We get a bit more to actually chew on in the pre budget report shortly, but until then it's the punch and judy politics that David Cameron hates so much.......

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Stormy Weather

The autumn storm season has just brought forth it's first big 'un of 2009. I was relieved that it didn't hit Spelthorne as hard as had been forecast. Having said that, it was incredibly ambitious of London Irish to set up their latest exhibition showcasing their redevelopment plans in a marquee, and put up on Friday night! Sadly it didn't survive, and those of us there were shown to the club bar where it was hastily put together again.
It does bring into focus the changing weather, and the huge rise in energy costs faced by residents every winter, particularly the elderly. One thing that could be done to improve the situation, would be to properly insulate all the homes in the UK. As a party, we have comprehensive proposals on this. The Liberal Democrats’ Warm Homes scheme would be a national programme involving government, local councils and the private sector to insulate every home in Britain to the highest energy efficiency standards within the next 10 years. This is vital if we are ever to bring the 4 million people who currently suffer fuel poverty out of it. It is also an important long term way of tackling the effects of climate change. These are the strategic ideas that this country needs to provide long term benefits to people. It can't come too soon.

Friday, 13 November 2009

When is a Criminal not a Criminal?

Lib Dem Shadow Home Secretary Chris Huhne has discovered that large numbers of people are disputing the findings of criminal records checks.

The figures, revealed in a Parliamentary answer, show:
15,320 people have disputed their criminal records check since the CRB was launched in 2002/03

A record number of people (2,509) were involved in a dispute with the CRB last year (2008/09)

This is more than double the number of disputes in the CRB’s first year of operation (there were 1,111 in 2002/03), though the proportion of disclosures being disputed has fallen

Disclosures can be disputed if your name is the same as a criminal, if inaccurate information is held by the police or if you are the victim of identity fraud.

For me, this gets to the heart of the problem of Governments with huge databases of information. Even in the hands of entirely benign Ministers, the information can be flawed or misused. It will also not be secure, as has been shown by the repeated losses of data in cabs, in the post, on trains and in the street. The red tape and bureaucracy that an individual has to go through to correct information about themselves can in some cases be practically impossible and take years. The latest database that the Government wants to set up is one that will have all emails, phone records and website visits of everyone in the UK. If this gets any serious press attention at all, I am sure the justification will fighting terrorism. But defending freedom by taking it away is no justification at all. Our freedoms have been systematically eroded by Labour in the name of their protection. The Tories are no friends of freedom either. Have a peek at their last Criminal Justice act in 1996, and discover that they effectively removed the right to assembly amongst many other things. Our freedoms have been hard won over 1000 years, and we let posturing Ministers out tough each other and take them away at our peril.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Expenses Prison Term

Former UKIP MEP Tom Wise has been sentenced to 2 years in jail for fiddling £39k of expenses. This after a campaign in the European elections in June this year when UKIPs leader claimed they were the party to vote for if you wanted to clean up politics! Root and branch reform is what is needed, and until we have a commitment from the other major parties, it aint gonna happen. Lib Dems will continue to push for proper reforms of the whole system of Government, not just expenses, so we can have a modern system of Government fit for 21st century Britain.

Brooklands College

News of the closure of the Ashford campus of Brooklands College was a bombshell. But weeks later, students are in many cases none the wiser as the the future of their education. Vocational courses will continue at Weybridge, but A levels will go altogether. Those doing a combination of courses seem to be particularly badly affected, as co-ordinating A or AS levels and a vocational course at 2 different colleges will be a nightmare. I will be writing to Colin Staff, the principal, this week to try and get some answers for the parents and students who are contacting us looking for help.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Staines Massive!

What a fantastic result for Staines Town. A 0-1 result at Shrewsbury is superb. I see the draw has given them a tie at home so I can get along to watch. Having been to see Hitchin, the town I was born in, play in early FA Cup rounds, I know the atmosphere at these games can be great. One year I went to a 2nd round match at Gillingham, and we found ourselves in the home supporters pub! They were really good to us, and it reminded all of us there what football should be about. Roll on round 2!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

The Astonishing Mr Wilshire

“Branding a whole group of people as undesirables led to Hitler’s gas chambers.” This is what David Wilshire wrote back to a constituent in response to emails that residents sent him venting their anger at his behavoir over expenses. This follows his claim that backbench MP's are working 'close to the minimum wage'. The first statement is deeply offensive, and I know first hand from a meeting with residents last night that they are offended. The second is utter nonsense. It is clear that 2o odd years in Parliament have left him so disconnected from his residents that these statements apparently seem prefectly reasonable to him. The anger in Spelthorne at what has happened is palpable, but this man does not get it. His colleagues say it is a media witch hunt. With comments like those above, they don't have to do much hunting. David Wilshire will also be entitled to a payoff when he quits at the election, which one paper claims will be over £50,000. Quite simply he does not deserve it. His judgement is fatally flawed, he STILL won't face constituents to explain himself, and just this week, letters have been arriving from his office making no mention of what has happened as if it never did. David Wilshire should go - NOW.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

10:10

My colleagues on Spelthorne Borough tabled a motion this week asking the council to sign up to the 10:10 campaign. This is a grass roots campaign to get individuals and organisations to cut their energy consumption by 10% in 2010 to help arrest the progress of climate change. True to form, the Tories dodged a vote on the night and referred it to the Executive. Lib Dems on the council are incredibly pro-active, offering ideas and solutions which the ruling Tories constantly ignore. With their record of action on the environment, including appalling overdevelopment and the big thumbs up for a third runway at Heathrow, I will be amazed if the Tories sign up. Councils are supposed to show community leadership. They think that Twinning with Mauritius is 'urgent', but tackling climate change, which some of them clearly don't believe in, is not worthy of a full council vote. Shocking.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

The Politics of Fear

Yesterdays sacking of the Governments drugs advisor, Prof David Nutt, brings into sharp focus the tension politicians face when making policy and setting the agenda. Prof Nutt stated this week (and has done so previously), that cannabis and ecstacy are no more dangerous than cigarettes and alcohol. He said this based on the facts at his disposal as a scientist. However, with successive Governments having made a virtue out of being tough on drugs and talking up the dangers of their use, his candid assessment was very unwelcome, particularly as he was their chief advisor on the subject.
So, here is a classic example of a Government asking for specialist advice, but when that advice undermines current policy, they change the advisor rather than the policy. In recent times we have seen this in education, the armed forces and the police, but here we have an issue which all Governments pin some of their moral standpoint on, and knowing full well that they would be open to attack if they were seen to be 'soft on drugs'. So it is in their vote winning best interests to stick with their dogma rather than open an informed debate on a delicate and emotive subject. Politicians of all viewpoints know how this feels. Faced with the choice between the facts and arguments as you know them, versus the strongly held beliefs of the electorate, which should they choose? The temptation is to always play the way of the electorate; after all, they elected you right? You promised to listen didn't you? Well here you are, listening! The problem is, politicians can, and should, be the standard bearers for change and new ideas. This takes a lot more courage, and certainly a great deal of judgement. If communities really do want the status quo, then you should help to defend that. If they want a different kind of change, you should help to create it. But you owe it as community leader to at least let people have the facts and make up their own minds before being on hand to assist in the solution people want. An example of this recently was Peter Carroll, a Lib Dem councillor in Kent, who started a campaign for rights for Ghurka veterans. Joanna Lumley did a wonderful job at the sharp end, elegantly breaking Government ministers, but Peter campaigned for years on this issue, and for a long time for no reward personally or politically. He just felt so strongly about the issue he refused to give up. This is remarkably rare in Governments as a collective, as they seem to suffer a mass neurosis about stepping out of line (although as the Government gets tired and old, the neurosis seems to drive them to step out of line on a daily basis!). It usually starts with one person, either a campaigner or politician, fighting through all the obstacles for something they hold dear, and win over public opinion, only for the Governement to catch on at the last and make it their own. We need people like that now more than ever.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The Kelly Report

If what we hear is true, I am delighted that Sir Christopher Kelly, the man tasked with overhauling the MP's expenses system, has said that claims for mortgage payments for second homes shoud be banned. This is something that is clearly way beyond the public interest and should never have been sanctioned by the fees office in the first place. I'm also glad that there is going to be a wider zone outsidde London where second homes allowance cannot be claimed. This will include Spelthorne if reports are accurate. I have been critical in the past of David Wilshire claiming this allowance, and have publicly stated that I would not claim it myself. So to see the boundaries moved to a more sensible distance is welcome. Lib Dem MP's who were able to claim and were close to Spelthorne, like Vince Cable in Twickenham, have not previously claimed. Now those who felt they were entitled to extra cannot get at the extra cash. Good.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Generals

I was really pleased to see the various Generals come out against the BNP's exploitation of our armed forces and military symbolism yesterday, along with former servicemen like Andy McNab and Simon Weston. The BNP have previously rejected calls by Vera Lynn to stop selling a CD with 'We'll meet again' on it to bolster their party funds. This time, leader Nick Griffin drew parallels between the Generals sending troops to Afganistan and the Nuremburg trials in 1946. What is most striking about Griffin is that each time he opens his mouth, something even more absurd than his last utterance comes out. Despite his best, feeble, attempts, his party are still the poisonous, despicable gaggle of racists they have always been. I will be amazed if his appearance tomorrow night on Question Time will do anything other than show him up for the hateful bigot he really is.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Experience Culture

I was delighted to help out at the Experience Culture charity auction in Guildford on Saturday night. I was the auctioneer, filling in for the original host who was poorly. Having never conducted an auction before I was a little nervous, but it went brilliantly. The charity helps volunteers go to a village in Uganda to help the local community, and now are developing links with an Indian village too. They have also provided mosquito nets, HIV/AIDS testing, and materials for building. On the night they raised (at last count) £4500, every penny of which will go to the communities themselves. Lottie and Sarah, who run the charity, did an amazing job organising it all, with a live band, magician wandering around the throng, another singer, stalls selling local produce from the 2 countries, a silent auction and a raffle, as well as the main auction itself. It's also fair to say that I had a cracking time, and apologise for all the grief I gave the guys from the Royal Tank Regiment (and a Kings Hussar), who turned up in full dress uniform and spent a LOT of money! Can' wait for next year!

New Mayor in Bedford

The people of Bedford have elected Dave Hodgson as the new Lib Dem Mayor. Dave is a great guy, who will do Bedford Borough proud. It was great to get up there and campaign for his election. The Tories thought this was going to be the precursor to beatingthe sitting Labour MP at the General Election. How wrong they were. Having selected their candidate in their experimental 'open primary' selection system, it appears that this caused divisions in the Tory ranks, amid claims of interference from Tory Central Office. Is this what will happen to the Tory localism agenda come the next election? Time will prove that it's only the Lib Dems that truly listen to local people and believe in passing power down to local communities.

David Wilshire Resigns

As this story broke on Wednesday evening, the phone and email went into overdrive. The allegations made against Mr Wilshire by the Telegraph were out of the blue and quite extraordinary. As it became clear on Thursday that this really was serious for him, the press requests started. It is difficult when these things are allegations, but with them being potentially damaging, it seemed inevitable that he had to resign, as I told Radio Surrey on Friday morning. He is duly standing down at the next election, although some might ask why he should hang on for his golden handshake at the end of his term. Dr Ian Gibson didn't do so in Norwich North, and went straight away. What surprises me so much, however, are comments attributed to Mr Wilshire about being on a salary that was "dangerously close to the minimum wage" (as quoted in several newspapers over the weekend). Mr Wilshire had already shown a lack of contrition when other expenses claims were questioned earlier in the year. It is clear that he and his colleagues locally still maintain the Tory arrogance that they have a divine right to be elected. That is quite simply outrageous. The electors of Spelthorne are entitled to ask what their elected representatives do for them. The last of Mr Wilshire's infrequent contributions to Parliament before his announcement he was standing down at the next election was to sponsor a Bill that would have removed the minimum wage. How ironic.

Catching Up

It has been an incredibly hectic week, for some obvious reasons, so I will be putting up a few posts today to catch up on the events of the last seven days.......

Friday, 9 October 2009

Mayor of Bedford

There is a by election in Bedford at the moment to directly elect the mayor, following the death of the Independent Frank Branston. We have a superb candidate in Dave Hodgson, and I went out campaigning there last night. The local Lib Dems, like so many local parties, have been active for many years in the community helping local people, and this is paying dividends in the level of support Dave is getting. My feeling is we have a real chance of electing the second Lib Dem mayor in England, the other being Dorothy Thornhill in Watford. She was re-elected in 2006 having done a terrific job there, and has shown what a Lib Dem mayor can achieve for people. If the people of Bedford choose Dave, they too will get a passionate advocate for their area.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

A Fantastic Result!

I have returned from my holiday, which coincided with the climax of the by election. What timing! Anyway, the team put together a a fantastic result, with a 15% swing to the Lib Dems. Missing out by just 72 votes was a real pity for our great candidate Richard Dunn, but we have shown we can win in Laleham and Shepperton Green, and I'm sure it will be a really close contest in 2011. Labour came a poor 5th, with less than 5% of the vote, and their support has collapsed outside of Stanwell. We really are the challengers to the Tories in the General Election.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Trust Vince

Vince Cable has been rated as the most trustworthy politician in a poll conducted for the Times. The paper thinks this was inevitable, given his straight talking on the economy. Vince has been warning of the dangers that became a catastrophe for many years, and it is a testament to his judgement and skill that this has been recognised by voters across the political spectrum. The public have come to realise that it is the Lib Dems who have the credibility on the economy these days. The Government were, and still are, slow and lumbering when reacting to events rather than providing proactive solutions. As for the Tories, George Osborne is so lacking in ability to handle the economy, he never even appears in live debate on the TV, only in prepared soundbite interviews. Check it out for yourself. If Newsnight have a live segment, the Tories put up anyone else but Osborne, and he certainly won't go head to head with Vince. Woe betide us if Osborne is the next Chancellor.......

Saturday, 12 September 2009

London Irish

London Irish RFC are looking to move their facilities to a much bigger site in Sunbury. To pay for the move, they want to redevelop their existing site, off The Avenue, for residential use. Yesterday and today, there was a chance to see the plans and talk to them about them. What is clear to me from my visit this afternoon, is that the local area cannot sustain this development. Local people already know that their GP surgery is overstretched, they have problems with speeding, and the traffic at certain times of day in the area is terrible. Sunbury Cross grinds to a halt all the time. There are too many houses squeezed onto the site. The Labour Government have long guided local authorities into higher density housing than people want, but Spelthorne council have an astonishing record of allowing overdevelopment. Residents told me exactly what they thought whilst I was there. I believe that local residents will reject these plans, and I will support them. I hope London Irish and the council listens.

Football Mad?

England have just become runners up in the European championships. The ladies that is. It's a fantastic achievement by Hope Powell's team, and great progress. When though are we going to start giving them the support they deserve? Many women's national teams in this country are very successful (like the England cricket team for example), but get a fraction of the funding of their male counterparts. It's time we gave proper support to our successful teams, regardless of their gender.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Heathrow Runway Three

I am currently sitting watching Ed Milliband fail to justify a third runway at Heathrow on Newsnight. How the Government can seriously expect us to believe that they are committed to tackling climate change, whilst endorsing an expansion of aviation is beyond me. Heathrow certainly needs improving, but not expanding, and it's high time the Government reversed it's decision to allow runway three. The plan now appears to be that every other area of carbon emissions will need to be cut by 90% before 2050, so that the airlines can continue to fly on largely unaffected. This is a subject I will come back to many times in the coming months, especially as Spelthorne's MP wants the new runway, and so does the council......

Sunday, 6 September 2009

By-Election in Laleham and Shepperton Green

Well, our campaign is up and running, with an excellent candidate in Richard Dunn. We have been across the whole patch already, and as it's made up of several different villages and areas, we are determined to listen to locals and tackle issues that matter in each place. The Tories across Spelthorne are complacent, and people deserve better.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Health and the NHS

Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, who represents our area, gave a shoddy performance on American TV this week talking down our NHS. He was supported by another Tory MEP the next day, after Cameron had given out the message that they were 'four square' behind the NHS. Is that with a butchers cleaver in your hand Dave? As ever, the public mask that Cameron has tried to put on the Tory party has slipped, and the nasty, small minded views and behavoir have shone through once again. There is always debate to be had about public services, it's just that you somehow know that the Tories will be saying one thing and planning another.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

I went to a great event this lunchtime, which seemed a perfect time to start my blog. I was invited by our local candidate in Stanwell, Andrew McLuskey, to a fun day that has been going for a few years, and is run entirely by local residents. I met so many people with interesting stories today. The community warden up there really is the eyes and ears of the community. One man has made such a difference to the quality of life there. The chair and vice chair of the residents group are really enthusiastic about the area, but have such a fight getting positive action from the housing association, and it's clear that residents don't feel included or listened to. Housing associations need to remember they are providing a service to people, and it should take it's lead from residents, not dictate what will happen. I also got my hands on some fruit and veg from the allotment association from Ashford, and can already vouch for the tomatoes! The chair of Sunbury Accord gave me food for thought rather than for my tea, and told me about some of the issues faced by those with mental health problems locally. I will take up his kind offer of a visit and another chat about how I can help. All in all a cracking day and plenty for me to get on with!