Posted Saturday, 31 March 2007 at 20:35
Brussels, what an eye opener. I went with four other cross party MPs who also have rural constituencies similar to mine. My farmers didn’t ask me to go, they hardly ever complain. Given what Bedfordshire farmers have had to put up with over the last two years with the complete and utter debacle regarding the single farm payment subsidies, I would have taken any amount of grief from them willingly, however, Bedfordshire farmers have been stoic.
Just let me give you a few facts about dairy farmers; there are only twelve herds left in Mid Beds. In fact, Bedfordshire has had a dramatic decrease in dairy herds compared to other UK counties. If you are reading this and from Mid Beds, have you ever wondered where all the cows have gone?
British dairy farmers receive the lowest price per litre for milk in Europe. There is a 37% gap in the table between what the UK receives, which is at the bottom of the table, and Italy. The milk price per litre in Italy is 35.8 euros compared to the UK at 25.9.
In the UK the supermarkets are king, especially the big three. They take a large profit margin from milk, squeezing and holding the price paid at the farm gate.
The purpose of the trip to Brussels was to find out how the British farmer, dairy and arable, could get a better crack at the euro whip.
We met with Commissioner Fischer Boles. Impressive lady, her grandfather made the first Danish Blue. She understood all the complaints and points we put to her. Now this is a blog, not a paper, and I know I am in danger of becoming boring to those of you who like to read my blog for a peep into the workings of Westminster, but just bear with am a minute. Let me give you a long quote from my minutes.
Q “Commissioner, how can British farmers become more profitable given the farm gate price they receive for their milk and what can be done to at least bring their income in line with farmers in the rest of Europe. How can we break the hold the supermarkets in the UK have on our farmers”
A” You farmers need to withhold their milk from the supermarkets. At the moment half the milk produced within the UK stays as liquid milk (48% actually) and the other half is converted into value added products, yoghurt, cheese etc. If all your dairy farmers withheld their milk from the supermarkets, and put more into value added, the drop in the availability of milk would drive up the price”
ME..” No it won’t. The supermarkets will import milk from Europe which will mean that the farmer in Europe will get an even better price and British farmer’s will still miss out”
Commissioner “Ah yes, but in the meantime they will have penetrated the value added market.”
Me “The chillier shelves in the UK are full of imported value added products from France and other countries. Each one of those producers will have established contracts with supermarkets, it would be incredibly difficult for the processors to penetrate that market, and besides, what happens in the time it takes to achieve penetration, the British farmer will simply wither on the vine - and given that the UK is the only country in Europe which doesn’t have a farming assistance programme (thanks Nick) for entry into farming that will leave farming in the UK all but dead”
Silence, a smile from the commissioner. When we had our photograph taken she said “very good, we women need to be strong yes?”
Yes, we do, but not as strong as British farmers need to be to survive.
The commissioner mentioned the internal market. This in Europe is how they think - that Europe is one big shopping mall and everything is the same price and everyone makes the same profit.
Then internal market is a distorted con. I will believe in the value of the internal market when the EU has its accounts audited.
We are being absolutely done. We pour vast millions into the EU everyday which, in terms of agriculture, appears to find its way to the farmers in Europe in order they do well whilst ours become bankrupt. Let’s not even mention the suicide rate amongst British farmers.
The UK is about to be fined by the EU, I think the figure is £380 million. Millions, billions, trillions, it means nothing in the EU, it’s just numbers.
The reason? Margaret Beckett made such a hash and a mess of administering the single farm payment subsidy in the UK that it is being fined by Europe. What is happening to that fine? Given that the people who suffered as a result of the botched mess were the British farmers wouldn’t it be fair if it was distributed amongst them?
Well it would, but it’s not. The commissioner answered very clearly “the money will go into the central EU budget – would you like me to come and give your farmers a pep talk?”
I noticed in the taxis I got into in Brussels that not a single seat belt worked in any of them. An excellent example of how we gold plate rules - whilst the rest of Europe completely ignores them.
My overwhelming feeling as I left the EU was similar to one I get when you have eaten too much, or spent twice as much as I should have on a pair of shoes. Not helped by the large packing boxes which sit outside each office of every member of the EU Parliament. The boxes are because one week in every month everyone moves to Strasbourg. That’s everyone and everything, a huge office move once a month.
That kind of waste does make me feel ill. I would love to know how much that all costs, however, the EU hasn’t had its accounts audited in seven years.
I am off to the Indian in Woburn Sands now with my brood – have a good rest of the weekend!
I haven't spel checked or read back because I am being shouted at so forgive me!!!
When you look in the eye of an Elephant
Posted Friday, 30 March 2007 at 17:00
Finished constituency and about to leave for Cambridge, however, wanted to share something with you before I went.
Have you ever looked at a photograph and found yourself staring at it for such a long time, as though your eyes are drinking in the image – and when that happens you suddenly realise, without even knowing it, that you were holding your breath?
Go to http://www.ashesandsnow.org/ click on explore. It is the site of an exhibition of photographs by Canadian traveller Gregory Colbert who has already shown in New York and is at present in Tokyo. I hope he comes to London.
Prepare to be amazed. My favourite - the girl reading to the Elephant. How do I know about it? My daughter has asked for one of the posters for her birthday. My prediction, we will all have these posters on our walls one day!
Posted Friday, 30 March 2007 at 10:29
I really want to blog about Brussels yesterday, but I only have five. So I am going to do it justice and wait until I can sit down and do it properly. It really was an eye opener.
I had to get up at four to get the Eurostar, having, if you remember, gone to bed at four the previous morning after the votes and dashing back to Beds to pack – my body clock really hasn’t got a clue what’s going on.
I have always known I could smell a rat at fifty yards, well I can smell a gravy train at ten, and I can’t wait to tell you about it.
But first, to those have you who have gone all precious about my telling Tony and Cherie to go and get their own blog, listen up –
You have no idea how many messages Tony and Cherie sent me, because I didn’t post them all. After they had sent me one on one particular occasion, they sent another straight after telling me not to post it or I would be in trouble, and I would have been, big time!
The reason for them to get their own blog is that on it they can say what they like, without the inhibitions of posting on an MPs website. The person who was really Tony and Cherie is very welcome to post here – quick message to him – don’t be daft, send me messages, of course I’m not, it takes a lot more that that believe me, however, you could be on to something and could do well with your own site.
I have to go, constituency duties call. I then have to go over to Cambridge for a 24hr session with the public policy group to discuss healthcare policy and solutions, and then I am going to sit in this chair and tell you about Brussels, and then I am going to spend Saturday night with my girls and friends and drink more than one glass of wine in the pub, and then I am spending Sunday in bed. Any complaints? I hope not, because I am done in….. Whoops, no I'm not - civic service in Ampthill Sunday morning, never mind, nice try!
Posted Thursday, 29 March 2007 at 15:24
Nadine is currently on an all day visit to the European Parliament in Brussels with the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Dairy Farming. She will be blogging again tommorrow.
Posted Wednesday, 28 March 2007 at 02:44
I didn’t rebel in the end, because we abstained, which was the right thing to do given that we are about to embark upon our own consultation into the effect of aircraft duty.
Our treasury team have also done an amazing job over the last week.
George and Mark Francois have worked together for five years now, Theresa Villiers slipped in well two years ago and they run like a well tuned Ferrari.
They have kept Gordon Brown on the back foot since he announced the budget. Theresa asked Timms, Gordons number two “Isn’t it true that every family earning less than £18,000 per year will be worse off” Timms stammered back a “Not necessarily” – that was the best he, the chief secretary to the treasury, could do. Shame on him.
It was a bad budget which hits the poor and struggling small business the worst. Gordon sat and grinned all the way through tonight, well I am sure he has lots to grin about, he has kept big business and the trade unions happy so that’s ok then.
The grin was as fake as it was fixed. This was his worst budget, he’s lost it, and he knows it – he has been too long in the wings.
Once when I was on the daily politics show, Andrew Neil told me that the Conservative party was in the gutter. I replied (quoting Wilde I think) that if we were, we were looking at the stars.
Looking at Gordon Brown tonight and watching our treasury team perform I realised, it’s only a short gap between the gutter and the stars, and we are already halfway there.
It’s 2.41am. If there are any typos I appologise.
Posted Tuesday, 27 March 2007 at 20:32
We will start voting tonight at midnight, and will finish about 1.30am. That wouldn't be so bad, if it didn't take me over an hour and a half to drive back to Bedfordshire- and if I didn't have to be back here for 9am in the morning. Thank goodness it doesn't happen too often.
I hope my whip isn't reading this right now. Unbeknown to him, and to myself until just a few minutes ago, I am going to rebel tonight. Not only am I going to rebel, I am going to be a teller, something I have never done before. Oh well, here goes.... why am I so scared?!!!
What have you done today to make you feel proud?
Posted Monday, 26 March 2007 at 11:22
That would be a tough question if you were the Mayor of Bedford. Having just read the Beds Times & Citizen and a quote given by the man himself, I would, in fact, feel a little embarrassed today.
The Mayor of Bedford is obviously trying out a bit of spin. Just about every politician of any worth knows that spin is a black art. You need a spin doctor. If you try and spin yourself, you usually end up in orbit.
Gordon proved that on budget day. He is such a control freak that he keeps a firm grip on the message, and the strategy, but look at what’s happened? The budget has unravelled before his eyes, with absolutely no one being taken in by the very poor attempts at spinning the opposite message.
The Mayor of Bedford has said in the press that "he is going to take no lectures from me about consistency". That’s good, because I haven’t tried to give him any.
I did accuse him of hypocrisy, of which he is absolutely 100% guilty.
He chairs a committee whose sole aim and objective is to maximise any benefit whatsoever that can be gained from the 2012 Olympics for Bedfordshire. Attracting visiting teams, hosting events, hospitality, securing employment, whatever, he is supposed to be out there, fighting Bedfordshire’s corner against the other Home Counties who have committed chairmen trying to do exactly the same thing.
But Bedford’s Mayor has said the Olympics should have gone to Paris, he wished the UK hadn’t won.
Now my position is this. He is absolutely entitled to his opinion, and as Voltaire said, I would fight for his right to voice it; but as an elected politician, it is appropriate that if he cannot be 100% committed to the job in hand, he should stand down and put someone in place who is passionate about getting the best for Bedfordshire.
It’s no big deal. It is the honest thing to do. In fact, if he just admits to the public what he said at the meeting they may think the better of him for owning up and being big enough to admit he got it wrong.
Many may even agree with his point of view. That is not the issue. He is perfectly entitled to his point of view as are we all. But it is blatant hypocrisy to chair a committee which in order for you to do the job effectively requires you to have a different point of view.
I tabled a Parliamentary Early Day Motion this week calling for the Mayor to stand down from his position as Chairman of BOOST. The Bedfordshire Conservative MPs have signed it. The respected Luton Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins has signed it. The Bedford MP has refused to sign it, now why is that I wonder?
Being uncouth and describing me as ‘rent a gob’ in the BT&C for simply telling the truth wasn’t clever. Trying to spin your way out of it really isn’t very clever. Getting yourself into the mess in the first place, was not clever. Chairing a committee which you don’t believe in, not clever, confusing hypocrisy with inconsistency, not clever – is there a theme developing here do you think?
Abercrombie and Fitch and the NHS
Posted Saturday, 24 March 2007 at 20:24
My morning started off at the Woburn parish plan exhibition. The photo will be posted on the main site on Monday with the press release, however, it was a great exhibition which was very interactive and involved the villagers fully. Brilliant job Budge and everyone.
Stroke of luck that Kelly Holmes came to coach the football team on the pitch which meant that almost 200 visitors arrived at once!
My youngest daughter and her friend were with me. They thought we were on our way to London to the new Abercrombie and Fitch shop and looked very confused when I pulled into the car park. Cassie is used to this now, she just sighed, opened the car door said "come on Emma lets get it over with" – I think they enjoyed the fuss actually, and the tea and biscuits, but of course it’s not cool to admit that.
Abercrombie and Fitch was something else. The presentational devises were pitched very much at the gay man/teenage girl market, and like the girls said, it was like walking into an OTT celebrity house party, which just happened to be taking place within a shop.
You had to queue to get in and were greeted by two topless bronzed male models wearing very low slung jeans, the cause of much giggling from the girls. I think I must be getting old, give me a man with a brain any day!
After you had come in from the street, it transpired that it was actually a queue to join another queue at the bottom of the stairs, which was in fact a queue to join another queue at the top of the stairs, but all the way along nobody told you this. Who would have thought that Abercrombie and Fitch would model itself on the NHS?
A week to reflect, or a lifetime to regret?
Posted Friday, 23 March 2007 at 13:32
I am writing this before I go into the chamber to re present my Abortion Bill for the second reading.
It was clear this morning that Abortion Rights are as entrenched in their arguments as pro-life are in theirs. Click here to wtach Nadine interviewed on GMTV on Friday 23rd March 2007
I want to see the number of abortions which take place every day come down. 220,000 abortions per year equates to every single woman in my constituency having an abortion four times per year, or the same number of people we have in a small city. We have the highest rate of abortions in Europe, and yet thousands of couples scour the planet looking for babies to adopt.
Research points time and time again to the mental health problems many women experience in later life following an abortion, the Ferguson Study being the most extensive and conclusive.
When talking to women almost every one has told me that when they took the decision to abort they were under pressure, from parents, partners, teachers and friends.
The decision to abort should be taken by any woman with all the facts and support she needs at her disposal, she should be empowered, and that is why the Bill proposes time out – to think and decide, without pressure. A week to reflect or a lifetime to regret?
We have seen two babies born at twenty two weeks who have both gone home with no complications. I will never stop campaigning to have the limit brought down from twenty four to twenty weeks. Given what we now know about foetal development and medical advancement I simply cannot understand anyone who would disagree, especially when one knows exactly what methods are used to abort babies of this gestation. What kind of society are we?
Let the lethal injections remain on death row, let’s move away from this barbaric practice.
The abortion industry in the UK is becoming big business. The vested interests have to stop.
Message to Rita
Posted Friday, 23 March 2007 at 10:31
Stop commenting on my blog right now and email me - email@example.com. if you don't I am going to put the photos of you and I on my website, the ones when we were around 8yrs old, no hang on, the ones aged ten are funnier, no, actually there's one of you ........
Remeber you were always the boss? You were Anne of the Famous Five, the organised one who brought the picnic - and I was Georgina the tomboy who brought the dog? Well I'm in charge now.. I've got the photos!!! Email me!!
Posted Thursday, 22 March 2007 at 18:11
Well, Gordon Brown’s press office is on overdrive! Comments have been flying into my blog written in New Labour spin language all day! I am not posting a single one guys – go bother someone else!!
I have been submerged all day in constituency work and writing an article for House Magazine and getting ready for the second reading of my Bill tomorrow.
Doing GMTV in the morning. You could never call me a morning person, this is going to hurt. They are sending a car at 6.30am, ouch!
Is it just me or have you noticed how everyone has gone mad on car park allocation?
I called into the service station on the way in to collect a sandwich. Outside the M&S- to-go were fourteen disabled places, and fourteen parent and child places, and not a single car parked in one. However, the parking allocation was full.
I pulled into a parent and child. I may not be a parent and child, however, it was raining and I am a woman with hair, very important!
In work overload but am going to down tools now and go out for a drink with staff before meeting constituents, I have the nicest staff.
We have had some lovely thank you cards and letters in the post over the last few days, I have the nicest constituents too.
Posted Wednesday, 21 March 2007 at 19:13
All the way through Gordon Browns statement I kept thinking, “What about the NHS”? It was the massive great big fat stonking elephant sat in the chamber.
He mentioned the NHS once. This was so that it couldn’t be said that he made no reference to the NHS.
“We need to defend our borders” said Gordon Brown, yes we do, but we also need to stop people dying in our hospital wards too. Has he seen the figures relating to the number of deaths from MRSA and Cdiff?
“For the tenth year duty will be frozen on spirits”. So that’s the distilleries in Scotland taken care off then, but the poor beer and wine producers are hit, yet again.
When David Cameron stood up to respond he looked positively jubilant, he knew he was about to nail Gordon Brown. He almost galloped through his response as though he wanted to get to the end because he knew he had got him, the clunking fist had played right into his hands.
Just listened to George Osborne address the 1922 committee. I remember George giving his first ever major interview when he had just been made shadow chief secretary to the treasury. He handled the interview like he was reading a bed time story to one of his little ones. It has been a pleasure, and will remain so, to watch George grow into the statesman I am sure one day he will become. There is something very ‘ordinary’ about him. He may come from a privileged background and gone to a posh school, but you really wouldn’t know it because he has a natural empathy with people, you can have a laugh with him – and my daughters think he is great – which is something because they are very harsh in their teenage ‘ all politicians are boring’ judgment.
Anyway, budget, it was neutral. Ironically, we have always said that public spending should be slightly less than growth; it seems that Gordon may have been listening. George’s message at the ’22 was very much that Gordon is moving onto our agenda, only in some areas though; we have never proposed that spending on education should be chopped in half, but Gordon did today.
It is expected that Gordon will move into No 10 on June 25th. Maybe then he will notice that we have an NHS and that he had better do something about it fast. My prediction is that the first thing he will do as the new PM without a mandate will be to sack Patricia Hewitt.
We can but hope…
Got to dash… I haven’t seen a single news bulletin or anything yet, no idea what is going on out there!
sneaky blog under desk from meeting
Posted Wednesday, 21 March 2007 at 18:13
I am in a meeting, using someone elses lap top to do this! I will blog my budget blog later. Sufice to say it's as expected, a neutral budget which cuts the 10p rate despite the fact that you are probably listening to the news informing you that there is a tax cut! There isn't those who are less well off are going to be even less well off. I haven't seen a TV yet but do hope that small business is getting a message over because they have been well and truly.. must go...N
A word in your shell like....
Posted Tuesday, 20 March 2007 at 13:34
For the first time since I started I feel a little nervous about blogging.
A senior member of the Labour party has had a word in my ear. The conversation went like this. “Be careful love, we have got a couple of lads working full time looking at Conservative blogs, and yours is one of the favourites” Obviously, I asked him why on earth mine? The answer was a bit of a surprise, maybe it shouldn’t have been.
“We can’t have people thinking the Conservative party has normal people in it, you spoil the toff image, and your blog, it’s getting too well known, everyone is talking about it - just watch yourself.”
He then went on to tell me to watch out for comments signed with a female name!
This was disturbing enough, but then I had lunch with a journalist. He told me that he doesn’t know another journalist who doesn’t read my blog, and that there are many MPs that he has talked to who are hacked off with this fact, in a very hissy way.
However, MPs are reassured apparently by the fact that everyone thinks I am going to fall down an enormous manhole soon and that will be the end of me! Maybe I am, maybe I should stop right now!
Whilst you are reading this, so is someone else, wondering what harm he can do to me with what I have written - not nice.
What I would like to know is this; if the Labour party have employed two people to look full time at Conservative blogs, how are they paid? This is not a function of the government and should not be paid for out of tax payers' money, so who is footing the bill?
Mandrake in The Daily Telegraph said yesterday that I should sue George Osborne. I think Mandrake may be on to something; after all, George soon will be the keeper of the purse strings..….George, behave yourself, don’t you dare say such horrible things about me again, do you hear!
The Sun have today been very generous and mentioned my blog again in the Whip column.
And on Friday The Guardian compared my opinions on style and fashion to those of the Russian supermodel Natalie Vodianova.
You know, maybe I will carry on a bit longer; maybe it’s not so bad. After all, when else in my life am I going to be associated with a gorgeous supermodel?
The Pope moment
Posted Monday, 19 March 2007 at 10:22
I am sorry for not blogging over the weekend. I blog when I have five minutes spare and the truth is, I haven’t had five minutes.
Friday was a mad day. My researcher and intern were due to meet me at my home at 9.30am. We had an extensive tour of the constituency planned to highlight British Tourism Week. We were to begin at Woburn Safari Park at 10. Peter had arranged a tight programme of visits which was made slightly more difficult by the fact that we were producing our own promotional video of Mid Bedfordshire for the web site as we went. Timing was going to be crucial.
Peter and Skye arrived at 8.30 and didn’t even mention the fact that they were an hour early. I went upstairs to dry my hair whilst they made coffee and toast. They had come from London and must have been up since six.
They thought I didn’t know why they had come an hour early. I pretended I hadn’t noticed. I didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that they were both panicking slightly and just a bit nervous. They were juggling venues, people and mobile phones, and continuing to run the London office on remote. Andy who was driving us around for the day was due to arrive at 9.45, and arrived at 9.
I got the impression everyone would be relieved when the day was over.
We met the Duke of Bedford at the Safari Park. I had met him once before for about three minutes during the election campaign and he has telephoned me once, when I was in my kitchen making pancakes for my daughter and her friends.
I picked up the phone wearing an apron with a frying pan in my hand; I wasn’t expecting a call from a Duke.
He said “hello it’s Andrew here” I said “who” he said “Andrew Bedford” I said “sorry who” he said, slightly louder and with a hint of impatience “The Duke of Bedford” ....“Oh, I’m sorry, your Grace”. Which, he obviously hasn’t yet realised, is what every mere mortal calls this lovely man!
I heard my daughter’s friend ask “who’s your mum talking to?"
Cassie was quiet for a moment - “The Pope” she said, as she flipped a pancake – right, like that happens all the time!
The Beds on Sunday have the story of the Mayor of Bedford messing up during the school's question time session on Thursday, which I blogged about from the school car park after the event, on the front page with the headline 'Mayor Drops The Baton' not the best headline when you are only six weeks away from asking the electorate for their vote.
A friend said “you must be delighted”. Actually, I’m not. I have no doubt it will be my turn one day. Politics is the most unforgiving mistress. When I called for Frank’s resignation on the radio on Friday morning I did it in the full knowledge that one day, someone may be calling for mine.
Once ill chosen words are uttered from an elected mouth there is no going back – get it wrong, just for a split second, and your doomed.
My secret maggots
Posted Friday, 16 March 2007 at 13:59
I have signed an EDM this week giving my support for the use of maggots for wound debridement therapy. I first used maggots to clean a wound almost twenty years ago.
One night I admitted an eighteen year old man onto the ward post surgery following a motorbike accident.
The consultant who operated on him went on to achieve fame for knee replacement surgery, so I shan’t name him, however, in this case, when this young man came into A&E, the surgeon was faced with two choices – to save the young man's leg and life, or initially clean up his extensive wounds before surgery. Taking him into surgery with a leg and groin full of tarmac and dirt posed a risk of post op infection.
Life won. His leg and groin was doused in iodine and he was operated on straight away.
As one could have predicted, his leg was saved, however, nasty post op infection did take hold and began to win the day. Two trips back to theatre to remove rotting tissue and clean the wound took place but this poor boy was struggling. Anti-biotics were losing the battle.
The surgeon was a keen fisherman.
I was stood in the ward kitchen late one night having a cup of tea, when suddenly the surgeon appeared in the doorway, dressed in a waxed jacket and a pair of wellies.
He asked about the young man and I offered him a cup of tea as he put a suspicious looking bag on the table. He then asked me if I would consider doing something rather unusual for him!
To cut a long story short, every night after the drug round, he would turn up with a lovely box of writhing maggots. We put them all over the boy's leg onto the areas of necrotic and infected tissue, held in place, very simply, with gauze and a crepe bandage.
We called them our little puss munchers. They were fantastic. The boy's leg was as clean as a whistle within a week. It was a three way secret. Every morning I had to dash into his cubicle, unwrap the crepe bandage and scoop the fat swollen full little maggots into a plastic bag. I was terrified of leaving one in the bed and being caught out! How would we have explained a maggot in the bed?
The consultant, every morning on the ward round, had to listen to the sister wax lyrical about how her nursing care was miraculously working!
The proposal now is to use sterile specially bred maggots. There was absolutely nothing sterile about ours – I suppose they were cultivated, however, they were a darn sight cleaner than the wound. Each maggot is, in itself, a little sterile self contained unit and they love nothing more than to munch on a nice bit of infected flesh and puss. No surgery, no anaesthetist, minimal anti-biotics, easy on the patient, low-cost, reduced risk of cross infection, speedy, proven. What else did God create maggots for? So that British anglers could pretend to catch fish on a Sunday afternoon? I don’t think so!
So, every nurse and doctor out there, save the NHS a small fortune. Get over your squeamishness and get with the maggots - after all, they can’t eat you…..much!
Posted Thursday, 15 March 2007 at 16:47
The last couple of days have been a bit of a whirlwind and I apologise for not having blogged.
I have just finished a Question Time panel with a group of schools from across Bedfordshire. There is nothing more stimulating than being in a room full of teenagers, and nothing more frightening than sitting down in front of them and knowing they are about to fire numerous questions at you!
Frank Branson, elected mayor of Bedford was also on the panel. Now Frank thinks I don’t like him – that’s not true, a successful businessman and obviously devoted father and husband I have no problem with. Frank as the hypocritical politician is a different matter.
The students asked a question about the Olympics. Frank Branson is the Chairman of BOOST (Bedfordshire Olympic Opportunities Support Team).
Frank answered the question by saying, “Frankly, I wish the Olympics had gone to Paris and not to here, I wish we hadn’t won it”
Excuse me? Is that not a tad hypocritical? I, like many people, are concerned about the escalating cost of staging the Olympics, however, I was thrilled that we won the bid, a great day for the country – and I am not even the Chair of an Olympics Committee!
I played two tracks in my car on the way here. The first is by Jose Gonzalez, Heartbeats – achingly beautiful. The second track is one which every politician should play in his or her heart every now and then - it’s Free by the Lighthouse Family. Whether you are rich or poor, strong or weak, black or white, ill or well – one day we all may have to carry each other.
John Ball is 94
Posted Thursday, 15 March 2007 at 16:01
Message from Nadine's Researcher on her behalf - for those of you who have commented as to why no blog has been posted today - Nadine is attending a 'Question Time' with students across Bedfordshire at the moment and will be attending other engagements in her constituency later today.
She will be blogging later today!!!!!
A bit of a do!
Posted Tuesday, 13 March 2007 at 19:03
I was invited to a dinner last night by the Chairman of the British Venture Capital Association. The dinner was at Claridges and George Osborne was the after dinner speaker. I don’t accept many dinner invitations. If I did I would be the size of a house, however, this one was a bit special.
At the dinner I sat next to John Moulson from Alchemy, an eminent Newsnight reporter, and a very impressive group of mid level investors. 5million +. It occurred to me that the accumulative wealth around the table was probably on a par with our GDP!
Private equity has had a bad press of late. It’s hard to see why. Jobs in private equity backed companies have grown faster than jobs in FTSE 100 and 250 companies, as have sales.
Exports from private equity backed companies have grown faster than the national average as has investment. A relatively new industry which can’t be more than fifty years old, there are some in the left leaning media who love to latch onto terms such as asset stripping, encouraged of course by the unions and left wing politicians.
George Osborne gave a speech which I hope provided the industry with some level of confidence. Private Equity Investment is now a fundamental part of the business environment within which the UK operates. Without it there is no doubt that many small business dreams would not, via start up investment, get off the ground. Those start up’s which do well, would find it impossible to expand, develop, adapt and prepare for flotation or merger.
The left wing criticism of private equity demonstrates a naivety and lack of understanding of how wealth in the UK is created, and worse, it brings to the fore the politics of envy, which always looks its ugliest when attacking those who do well – both for the country and the individual.
I am not in the slightest bit worried about the ability of the industry to stand up to the attacks being levied at it. It’s a grown up industry now, world class, it will have to withstand many more surprising and un-founded attacks.
Last night I learnt more than the statistics. I met wealth creators who quietly embraced philanthropy. Who, in addition to creating jobs and the eddy within which a whole sector of British business functions, provide support to those who make a difference to the lives of others.
They support the organisations and individuals who cannot produce the overnight statistics and profit margins, but who need investment in products, facilities and services, which are driven by a far more urgent human need than profit.
My advice to the BVCA would be to be bold. Your record speaks for itself; you can defend yourself against any spurious political ideological attacks thrown at you. Be brave, as you are and have been, and be proud – because you have a great deal to be proud of.
I remembered the invitation to the dinner about five minutes after I had left the house in the morning and did a u-turn to go back and gather up the evening clobber.
As I drove I made a mental list; evening dress, high sparkly heels, long coat, clutch bag, glittery eye shadow, Channel No 5, jewellery.
I pulled up outside, flew into the bedroom, and started the search. I began with the shelf in the wardrobe. I was sure that when I unpacked the bedroom during the move, I would have put the evening bags up there. Everything on the shelf ended up on the floor. I then made my way through the room, cupboard to cupboard, leaving a trail of chaos and destruction behind me. I was practically in despair after I had emptied the wardrobe floor out onto the bedroom carpet and could find no sign of my evening shoes.
The dogs sat down in front of me with a look of puzzled confusion, eyebrows up, ears perky. Was this a new game? They were up for it; all I had to do was say the word and they would dive in!
Then I opened the last cupboard, and there before me in perfect order was everything. Evening make-up in a little basket - clutch bags all lined up in a neat little row. Evening jewellery in a new special box, next to the Channel No 5.
I remember now!
When I unpacked I designated a special evening cupboard to keep everything in one place in order, easy to find when in a hurry.
Hah, how organised and clever am I!
This is typed via my Blackberry. Grammar nerds don’t even bother hitting the comment button!!!
Posted Monday, 12 March 2007 at 09:46
My youngest has three proud lines in a very grown up play. I once asked her teacher if he thought she would get to Oxford. My heart soared when he said yes, my mind racing ahead filled with the images of bicycles, mortar boards, gowns and balls - and then crashed when he said - on the train; so to see her excel in, and enjoy English, especially Shakespeare, makes me feel just a tad smug.
I have never really got on very well with teachers.
The following is a true story told exactly as it happened.
I spent half of my school life standing outside the deputy head’s office door. Mr Cram, are you reading this, you were wrong.
It’s an authority thing.
Things didn’t get any better when I started at my school of nursing.
Another nurse Frances and I were told to report to Matron’s office, no I am not going to say why, but it really was not my fault.
Matron’s office was huge and severe. Being summoned to it was a sight more scary than being summoned to Mr Cram’s. Matron had a black Scottie dog called Blackie and he possessed the worst terrier characteristics.
Blackie slept concealed from view in a basket under Matron’s desk.
I got to know Blackie when I was on nights. One of my jobs was to put the report regarding the night’s admissions on Matron’s desk first thing in the morning ready for her to read when she got back from breakfast. Blackie was always there under the desk. He fiercely snarled and growled without pausing for breath the whole time I was in the room. I couldn’t see him, but he could smell me.
Every morning was the same. I used to step into the room slowly, tip toe halfway across and then leg it, throw the report down onto Matron’s desk, not stopping to see where it landed, and run out slamming the door behind me as I went.
I once tried to make friends with Blackie. I ventured to the other side of the big oak desk with a bit of chocolate in my hand - it was the one and only time I tried. I think he had been deprived of food in the past and fed a nurse as a snack.
Anyway Frances and I quivered outside Matron’s office door waiting to be called in. We had to go in separately. Frances was a coward, she pushed me in first. I got my telling off from Matron with Blackie on harmonies.
I left the office, held the door open for Frances and went into the staff toilets to wait as pre arranged. I sat in the sink and lit a post roasting cigarette, glad that the worst was over. Pleased that the technique of remaining as cool as a cucumber , developed, tried and tested on Mr Cram over the years (until he retired due to bad nerves), still worked.
Minutes later the toilet door burst open, Frances flew in and went straight onto one of the toilets to relieve herself without even stopping to close the cubicle door behind her. I sat in the sink, open mouthed and with an element of surprised shock said ‘flipping heck, what did she say?’ I knew I had slightly more resilience to a telling off than Frances, who was from Widnes and about to marry a pigeon fancier, however, she was genuinely disturbed.
’It was awful’ said Frances, trembling. She had obviously only just made it to the loo in the nick of time – ‘I have never been so scared in all of my life’ she said. ‘Matron growled and snarled at me the whole time and made these funny noises in her throat without even opening her mouth, oh God Nadine, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough, do you think Matron is possessed?’
Frances hadn’t yet done her night stint and knew nothing of Blackie.
I laughed so much I couldn’t get out of the sink!
The Worst Whip!
Posted Friday, 9 March 2007 at 15:36
I have the worst Whip in the House of Commons - it’s not that he’s not nice; it’s just that he’s everywhere. If I walk into the tea room or the chamber or the Members' lobby, there he is, as though lying in wait – he always greets me with – "ahha, just who I’ve been looking for" and I always reply in startled surprise, "really!" If I go into the library to read or use the computers he always walks past within minutes of my sitting down.
I have, on occasion, when coming out of the main library doors, seen him heading out of the Whips' office, so I exit stage left, straight up the corridor, into the inner waiting hall, turn right into central lobby and then right again into Members' lobby, having, via a circuitous route, avoided him.
I attempted to deploy this tactic the other day, but I wasn’t quick enough - he caught sight of me and shouted "stop right there, don’t move". Now, given that he has never seen me deploy this tactic before, how did he know what I was doing? Time to find a new corridor – or a new whip! He is lovely really, but do you remember the Nike advert with the little Nike boy who kept on popping up everywhere – that’s my Whip, everywhere.
I am so sorry Jack Straw MP wasn’t at Business Questions yesterday, as I wanted to ask him this. He worked on the new Afghanistan and Iraq constitutions. According to those constitutions, which I believe Mr Straw heavily influenced if not wrote, each government is required to have, as a statutory obligation, a minimum of 25% women MPs. This is the reason why the Afghan and Iraqi governments have more women MPs than we do in Westminster.
Given that MPs voted for a 100% elected House of Lords on Wednesday, will the same principle apply here? Nice one Jack.
Meetings at the council offices and surgeries today. I won’t be able to blog over the weekend as I still have no broadband. Thanks bt@whitehall - I have only been waiting a month.
Posted Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 11:50
I have been up since 4.50am. My dogs had no idea what was going on when I took them for a walk at 5am – to be fair to the dogs, neither did I. I walked into a lamppost and grazed my head - I think I fell back to sleep whilst I was walking.
TV interview at 8am in Millbank; then back down to the members’ tea room for breakfast. I don’t know why I bothered – I walked right into a trap. The men started talking to me about International Women’s Day, and I of course, being the earnest person I am started talking about how there are more women in the Afghanistan and Iraq parliaments than there are in Britain, when one said “yes, but can they keep on top of the ironing?” It went on and on in that vein, much laughter at my expense, again.
No Jack at business questions today, and I was ready for him, my slam dunk killer question word perfect in my mind. So where is he … running scared according to the tea room gossip, not happy with some of the comments made by people on my blog and less happy with the Telegraph diary. If you want to dish you have to take, that’s the rule.
Did you know that there are more women in the Rwandan parliament than there are in Westminster, 48.8%? During the Rwandan genocide over half a million women were raped. It says much for the women of Rwanda that having gone through the level of trauma that they have experienced, they can find the strength and resilience to empower themselves and take a major role in the future of their country.
Men and boys were the perpetrators of the genocide. Women will now be the pioneers of reconstruction and reconciliation.
So, if at the beginning of this blog you were thinking yawn yawn at the mention of International Women’s Day and wondering what on earth the relevance was, think on Rwanda; it alone is a good enough reason to celebrate International Women’s Day.
Liverpool V Barcelona
Posted Wednesday, 7 March 2007 at 16:40
I had a tough call to make last night - Liverpool v Barcelona, or take my daughter for a pizza. The fact that I have Sky+ had nothing to do with the fact that the pizza won!
One of my highlights since I became an MP was meeting David Moores and some of the Liverpool football team when they came to the House of Commons to a reception hosted by the Speaker in honour of the European cup winners.
Michael Howard introduced us and for a moment I was completely star struck and tongue tied, not a frequent occurrence!
David told me the story of how low down and dejected the team were at half time in that amazing match, when suddenly down the tunnel, like a wave washing over them came the sound of the fans singing ‘you will never walk alone’. He said it filled the dressing room and a change came over the team – the supporters really lifted their spirits. Remember the film Crocodile Dundee when at the end the people on the subway platform each lift him along on their arms? Well for the LFC the support the fans gave to them when they were 3-0 down had the same effect. You will never walk alone lifted them back out onto the pitch. The supporters saved the night.
On another point which has nothing to do with Lords reform – I downloaded a track by Regina Spektor, ‘Fidelity’, onto my nano ages ago, and now everyone’s singing it, I hate that! She' a bit like Imogen Heap without the Parrot
Click Here To Watch It
What else can I talk about that has nothing to do with Lords reform – nothing, I have to work. For the avoidance of doubt my postbag has not been bursting with letters about the proportionality of the elected element of the second chamber. My constituents are all far more interested in who has got through to the quarter final, however, I probably will vote later for 80 – 20. Why? Why not? It’s all totally futile. There are so many options in the votes that no overall conclusion will be reached. Lords reform will stall and be kicked into the long grass again. Don’t agree with me? Let’s talk again in six months.
UPDATE having studied all the options available I have only voted for option 1, to retain an upper chamber. The other 9 options are politicians self indulgence. I have never seen such twaddle. I would be embarassed to show this order paper to any man or woman in the street. You can all ask the question "Is this what we pay our taxes for " with complete justification today. I am looking forward to my surgery on Friday back in the real world - I bet everyone wants to discuss tonight!
Posted Tuesday, 6 March 2007 at 16:34
I have been asked by so many people if I can elaborate further on yesterday’s blog, I can’t. Some things are very personal and not for the blogosphere.
That’s the problem with blogging; you can slip into self indulgence without knowing. When I blog its four minutes of a brain to fingers dump. I don’t plan or think about it beforehand. There are no notes or research – I literally sit, type, check for any glaring grammar mistakes, click save, done.
I suppose yesterday was an attempt at symbolising how awful things can sometimes be, and how nothing lasts forever.
In 1997 the Conservative party hit the worst of days. It’s equivalent of my dark night. And yet here we are now with a solid and sustained lead in the polls and a bright and golden future. We have a leader who feels what others do and who knows exactly what matters. He see’s a Labour party in panic, void of ideas and direction, and smiles and waits. Well wouldn’t you?
Labour MPs are miserable, especially those who know they are about to lose their seats at the next general election. They in turn are putting pressure on the leadership who are spinning around like headless chickens. “What to do” you hear them squawk as they run up and down corridors and in and out of offices, feathers ruffled.
On the committee corridor Michael Meacher sits on a bench with his left wingers, “not before Thursday” I hear him say as the gaggle move in closer. Not in this lifetime Michael I think as I walk past – you are about to enter your darkest days.
Liverpool, Jack, Terry and the past
Posted Monday, 5 March 2007 at 17:48
The Whip Column in the Sun has got me today – with a photograph. I am beginning to wonder if my blog is just becoming effortless copy for journalists who replace investigating with cutting and pasting - and effortless chamber fodder for government ministers who can’t be bothered to do their research.
At least the journalist from Friday’s Daily Telegraph met me for a quote and asked my opinion before he wrote his own piece:
As Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw was noted for having something of a soft spot for his US counterpart, Condoleezza Rice.
But now he is confined to Westminster as Leader of the House of Commons, he is taking a close interest in the work of another female politician: Nadine Dorries , the Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire.
Yesterday - for the second week in a row - Straw quoted from the blog which Dorries publishes on her website at Business Questions in the Commons, and some are now jokily talking of him as a cyberstalker.
"He does seem to be getting a bit obsessed with my blog,'' Dorries tells me.
"It's all very flattering, but hasn't he got more important things to do?''
Now, on that theme, my uncle ‘Sherlock’ Terry has pointed something very funny out to me. Click on this http://www.dorries.org.uk/ND_PMQ_065.asx and watch what Jack straw is saying as the PM answers me. The pamphlet Jack is taking out of his top pocket is a directory of MPs from the 2005 intake. It has pictures on the left and profiles on the right. Mmmm, very interesting!
My uncle Terry is a teacher, a socialist and one of the best amateur football referees in Liverpool. He is sixty nine and doesn’t yet look fifty. It’s from him that I inherit my passion for politics. I visited his house, the family home, on Saturday after I had spent the morning campaigning at a by-election in Liverpool.
He wasn’t in when I arrived. We don’t see each other very often, but we do speak on the phone. He is the role model perfect father and good citizen. If every man in the country were like him, we would live in the ideal society.
Whenever I visit Doric Rd, I am always swamped by an overwhelming sense of melancholy in the midst of a house always full of laughter. I see people who were there before. My Irish grandmother, long since dead lifting me onto the draining board in the kitchen to wash my knee and make it better with a magic kiss. The ghost of my brother running up the path in persuit of the scraggy dog, Scamp, trying to reclaim his teddy from the dog’s mouth; and my father and grandfather - granddad in the big leather chair, and my father on the dining chair, leaning forward, elbows on his knees taking earnestly about something serious which went straight over my toddler head. Laughter wasn’t always so close to hand.
I saw Terry arrive before he saw me. He turned the corner and opened the gate I used to swing on as a little girl, pushing it back on the same squeaky hinges to make way for Jack, his grandson to run up the path. Terry smiled as he watched over Jack, his face a mixture of benevolence and joy.
A cerebral light flashed and my mind took a snapshot, the picture is there, ingrained on my brain. For as long as I live, whenever I think of Terry, I will see the image of him walking up the path, smiling at Jack, bathed in sunshine.
It will replace the image that was there up until today, taken on a dark night in the midst of grief; above the noise of police radios, and an ambulance siren, and people panicking. The one I took just before I slipped into a temporary period of grief- induced insanity, when just for a moment, through the tears, we looked at each other - the flash went and I took the picture that has stayed with me over the years, refusing to be replaced, until now.
Years have now passed since that night and memories fade.
Terry is a hard line Labour man and I, his niece, am a Conservative MP. Our difference of political opinion is nothing compared to the bond we have through blood, love and shared experiences. We discuss politics in nothing other than a friendly affectionate way and our discussions, void of point scoring or backbiting, race ahead and excitedly identify problems and find the answers and solutions. If only Parliament could capture the spirit of political discussion, born from something deeper, and more substantial, than the shallow personality and media-driven drivel which all too often replaces political discussion today.
As I kissed him goodbye at the squeaky gate I looked up to the box room window and saw a little girl on her third birthday with blonde curly hair, staring ahead, her chin in her hands, the window her vantage point to look as far as she could see up the entry (scouse for alleyway) opposite. She was waiting for a family friend, Joe, who had said he was bringing her a present.
I turned to look towards the entry and saw Joe come into sight, spotting her at the window, laughing and raising the present above his head, it was her first play nurse’s uniform.
Joe never knew I became a nurse.
No Time for a Postcard
Posted Friday, 2 March 2007 at 09:42
I am out and about in the constituency today so blogging is not easy. My broadband request has gone through bt@whitehall - who says our phones aren't tapped!
Two comments which came in from yesterday's blog are interesting. One pointing to a website re the $20 trick and another from Dave who comments on the paucity of IT awareness within the Labour party. Having mused on Dave's comment, I think that maybe Jack's obsession with my blog is born from a lack of awareness as to how powerful blogging can be. Maybe he finds the concept that my blog has had a quarter of a million hits in five weeks a bit difficult to take in.
Maybe that is indicitive of a political ideology which is ultimately about control - and the fact that people freely communicating with each other means that politicians may not have ownership of the message in quite the way they used to. If I were a Labour politician that would scare me too - but I would try to refrain from the knee jerk reaction displayed by the Leader of the House - me thinks he doth ptotest too much! I will blog from any internet cafe on Saturday, either that or unpack the box which contains the lap top charger!
Jack- What are you on!!
Posted Thursday, 1 March 2007 at 16:35
I had meetings today in the morning and got into the House just after business questions finished.
I was a little shocked when a journalist rang me and asked “did I think Jack Straw was obsessed with me?” The journalist went on to explain that Jack had just quoted from my blog for the second week running and did I feel as though he was behaving like a ‘cyber stalker’? Err no, not yet, because I don’t know what he has said.
I then got into my office to a message saying that Jack Straw had personally tried to call me just before he went into business questions.
Bottom line is he has quoted from my blog, at length in the chamber for the second week running.
The tea room theories are as follows:
The blog has had 250,000 readers in five weeks and Labour doesn’t like that;
Labour MPs are so bad at blogging it shows them up;
Jack Straw is a cyber stalker;
Jack Straw is obsessed with me;
Jack Straw is missing Condie;
Jack Straw is weird.
The last theory was a contribution from one of his own MPs.
Answers on a post card please!
Click Here To See The Article On Conservative Home
I hope Jack knows what he's doing!
Click Here To See This Item On Iain Dale's Blog!
Just had lunch with an American friend, who is here on business, this is what he showed me, it’s spooky…
Take a $20 note, lay it flat on the table in front of you with the head of Andrew Jackson facing you – fold the note in half bottom up lengthways – pick up the bottom left hand corner and fold up from the middle, then take the bottom right hand corner and fold up from the middle so that the note is in the shape of an arrow – how scary is that picture!! Almost as scary as when you turn it over and look at the other side. I now believe in conspiracy theories.